The Big Ten shocked the world last week when it announced that it was going to return to play an altered eight game season after cancelling their scheduled season in August due to COVID-19 concerns. The Big Ten season will run late October through early December, and end a week before the Big Ten title game. Since football is back in the midwest, could this mean the MAC will return too?
That’s the question we’re all asking. In an article by ESPN senior writer Adam Rittenburg, it’s stated that the MAC presidents were going to meet this past Saturday, Sept. 19, to discuss a return to football. Rittenburg also wrote, “The Toledo Blade, which first reported the presidents' meeting, reported the MAC is considering a six- or eight-game fall schedule that would begin Oct. 24, and culminate with a conference championship game at Detroit's Ford Field.”
This is extremely exciting news. Fans of MAC football were convinced they’d have to wait until Spring 2021 at the earliest to see some action, but with momentum on the rise, we could see EMU play in 2020.
Teams around the nation have been playing for weeks, such as teams that are a part of the ACC and the SEC. I argue that seeing these conferences play successfully without derailment from COVID-19 is the biggest reason for other conferences to want to return to play, after seeing other teams take the risk and have it pay off. Conferences that aren’t playing football are being left behind, and now face a big decision.
Do you risk losing potential revenue on TV ratings and halt the development of your program? Or do you go ahead and play but deal with obstacles like spending money on rapid testing for players and coaches? I think this is the biggest roadblock in the way of MAC football returning. The MAC of course isn’t as big as the Big Ten, and doesn’t even come close to grabbing the TV ratings that the Big Ten does. The MAC relies on loyal college fans to show up every Saturday and buy tickets, but as we know, there probably won’t be any fans allowed at games.
Which sadly brings me to believe that even though there is traction for MAC football, it will sputter out due to low budget programs not wanting to spend the money on testing and take the risk without a guarantee that there will be a payoff for it. Big programs like the University of Michigan are at risk of losing players to the transfer portal, but smaller programs from the MAC are not. A starter on EMU’s football team might be a star here, but would be a benchwarmer on a larger conference’s team. That risk of transfer just isn’t there for MAC teams.
Although I don’t think the MAC will return, I could see them return with only the teams that want to take the risk. The MAC could allow teams to opt out of the 2020 fall season, and let the teams that want to play go out and make it happen. Then, the teams that want to save money get to, and the MAC has a lessened risk by having fewer teams and games on the schedule. That scenario still leaves the question, “Would EMU play?”
That’s a hard question. They did spend 40 million dollars on the new stadium renovation, and could want to showcase it on TV to attract new players, but at the same time they could want to save the money for when they can have fans in the stands. If somehow they were allowed to have limited fans, I think EMU plays no question. It’s difficult to say.
I really want to see MAC football this fall. With so much in the air it is hard to say, but hold onto your hats. We could hear some wild news over the next few weeks.