College Sports Leaders Remain Divided on Pandemic

By: April Feng

While the Big Ten and the Pac-12 were clear in their decisions to cancel football seasons, Southern conferences have been less assertive, demonstrating the clear divide in college sports leaders on the topic of holding athletic competitions during the current pandemic.

After the N.C.A.A. cancelled both their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments back in March, college sports leaders have made similar decisions. According to The New York Times, Big Ten and Pac-12 just announced this Tuesday their plans to postpone conferences due to coronavirus concerns.

The Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, stated that there was “too much uncertainty, too much risk” playing in the current coronavirus pandemic. “You have to listen to your medical experts,” he asserted. “There’s a lot of emotion involved with this, but when you look at the health and well-being of our student-athletes, I feel very confident that we made the right decision.”

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby disagrees. “Our board believes in our scientists and has come to a conclusion that’s different, and so have the leadership of the SEC and the A.C.C.,” he stated. For the Big 12, SEC, and the A.C.C., football season will continue. However, officials do state that these decisions may change with the circumstances.

Although the decision to postpone games for the Big Ten and Pac-12 have come after intense deliberation, they are not without opposition from players, coaches, and others. In fact, it greatly impacts the recent merging of the #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited campaigns, which help to make the voices of student-athletes heard in the multibillion-dollar sports industry.

Economically, the impacts are greater. A loss of over $1 billion in TV ads from the postponed games will be a heavy hit to television networks such as ESPN and ABC, which are owned by Fox and Disney, respectively.

Kevin Krim, CEO of the TV ad measurement platform EDO, states, “The implications are huge economically. The cable and broadcast television ecosystem, with advertisers and rights fees and subscriber fees, are heavily anchored to live sports, and the most valuable franchises there are football.”

According to Kantar, nearly $1.7 billion in TV advertising was brought in by college football last season. The pandemic has led to a slew of problems within the advertising industry, leaving companies with no audience to market towards.

The financial implications of the postponement of the season are huge. However, Dr. Doug Aukerman, head of Oregon State’s medical advisory board, states, “Playing contact sports, we know there’s going to be a higher risk of spread.” Southern conferences that have opted to continue their season will also face implications. Warren states, “You have to be mindful that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic.”







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