Over the past week, there have been many stories and debates over the decisions made by power five conferences over whether or not to play fall sports. Let those debates stay where they are, but it is important to remember the enormous effect these decisions have on smaller schools with smaller athletic departments throughout the country.
Most FCS and small FBS schools rely on a big paycheck from a large school’s football team to cover the expenses for their entire athletic department (with the exception of a few schools that make money from basketball). They sign a contract to agree to play a power five program in exchange for around a million dollars or more. That money goes to good use, as it funds every program at the school for the remaining year.
The Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC (for going conference only), have put the schools that were relying on that money in major jeopardy. For most FCS schools, no contract with a big team means no other sports both fall and spring because the money to operate them simply is not there. For example, Auburn was scheduled to play UMass at home in 2020 for a fee of a whopping $1.9 million. Now, UMass will likely get a small amount or none of that money that they were relying on to fund their athletics for the year.
On Thursday, every FCS conference in the country announced that they were postponing the football season to the spring (which to most people, just means cancelled).
If the ACC decides to play their schedule as planned, The Citidel will want to play Clemson and Samford University will want to still play Florida State as planned, which both now have no conference games. (Source: SB Nation) The reason is the one I stated above, money. Both of those SoCon schools are promised $450,000 that their athletics need in the contract as long as the ACC schools do not pull out. Since the Southern Conference went ahead and cancelled their season for some reason, this means that (as of now) Samford and The Citidel will be working out, conditioning, practicing, and scrimmaging during the fall for just one game- and a game they really do not have a chance to be very competitive at that. That is absurd, even if the conference does manage to play football in the spring, the players will have to be working out and practicing more than usual.
So apparently, Samford University players are at low-risk to contract coronavirus during workouts, practice, and traveling to Tallahassee to play Florida State, but playing conference opponent Western Carolina for a competitive game of football would be too high-risk. I do not blame the administration of these schools for continuing to play the game as planned because doing so would save the seasons of basketball, baseball, and other sports. However, the decisions made by the Southern, Big South, Ohio Valley, and other FCS conferences denies the players a chance to compete for a championship but left the option out there to get killed by a power five team once or twice out of conference.