Thursday marked the most significant news day regarding the upcoming college football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Big Ten Conference announced that it will not play nonconference games in 2020 with multiple reports adding that the Pac-12 will eventually do the same.
Just days after it was revealed that Fordham’s September 12 trip to the islands was scratched, the UH nonconference slate may be taking a big blow if the Pac-12 does go through with a conference-only season. The Rainbow Warriors are scheduled to open the year against Pac-12 members Arizona on Aug. 29, UCLA on Sept. 5 and Oregon on Sept. 19 before starting Mountain West Conference games.
“I would say that the news today from the Big Ten, I think you’re going to see that from the big five conferences and of course that’s going to jam Hawaii,” ESPN’s Neil Everett told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello.
“I really think it started Wednesday when the Ivy League announced that they were shelving all their fall sports until at least Jan. 1. That was the tip, the Ivy League doesn’t have the money that the big five has but it was the Ivy League who started things going in college basketball. Ending their tournament and everyone was like, ‘What are you doing?’ Well, and then we see what followed. So I think we kind of felt like this is probably headed down that way. We’re just headed down the wrong way on the road with this virus and we got to get it under control,” said Everett.
If the seemingly inevitable announcement is made by the Pac-12 and UH doesn’t find a replacement to the Fordham game lost, then first-year head coach Todd Graham would tentatively lead the ‘Bows out of the tunnel for the first time against Nevada at Aloha Stadium on Oct. 3, with conference independent New Mexico State slated for seven days later in Halawa.
“It gives a chance over 13, 14, 15, maybe 16 weeks, so over four months to play eight, nine, 10 games. Then you salvage some sort of season for the kids. There are still a lot of other hurdles but I think that is the thinking behind going to only conference and being able to stretch it out,” said Everett.
In accordance with the NCAA’s six-week preseason plan, the Rainbow Warriors opened mandatory strength and conditioning workouts on Monday with walkthroughs and team meetings approved for July 17 with training camp set to open on July 31.
However, if the team’s Power Five nonconference games are canceled, there are questions surrounding Group of Five conferences such as the Mountain West’s financial outlook and if it could afford to hit the field in empty stadiums without the million dollar paydays that games against the likes of the Pac-12 provides to a school’s athletic budget.
“I’d certainly be nervous,” said Everett. “It’s all about balancing your budget one way or another. If football takes a big hit, then that money has got to be made up somehow or you got to make the cuts. I think that’s the question that all the AD’s at those schools are. I think the athletics directors at big five schools are thinking that just because they got all the money, if some is good, more is better.”
As of now, neither UH nor the MWC has commented on Thursday’s developments, but meetings between all conferences will continue through next week.
“I’m not that confident. The college football is great. The college experience is great. It’s incumbent upon being able to breathe and live, so I think this is just one of the sacrifices and when we look at the big picture I think it’s going to be a s sacrifice being made for mankind,” said Everett.