2020: Could it Be A Year Without Notre Dame Football?

Every major sports league throughout the United States has closed indefinitely. As each day passes, the chances of a college football season slowly dwindle. Unfortunately, winter and spring sports have witnessed the disruption firsthand and the future is uncertain. If Notre Dame Football is forced to cancel the 2020 season, there will be a long-term impact on the college football landscape.

2020 Season in Doubt

Fall Sports are not out of reach. The largest sporting event in the world, the 2020 Summer Olympics, were scheduled to take place right before the college football season. That event has already been postponed until 2021. If the NCAA decides to cancel football, the decision will likely be made several months ahead of time and the clock is ticking.  On Wednesday night, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said that teams need to be back to conditioning by July 1 to allow for proper player safety without impacting the season.  That’s just three months away.

Unless there are drastic changes over the upcoming spring and summer months, a year without Notre Dame Football is a possibility. UHND discussed this possibility on a podcast earlier this week.

Teams are unable to prepare for the 2020 season. Brian Kelly and the Irish have already been missing out on essential spring practices. The Annual Blue-Gold Game will not take place this spring. Even if college football is to be played this fall, programs will not have nearly the preparation time that is typically awarded. Weeks of practice have already been lost and there will be many more to come.

Long Anticipated Matchups

No more Ireland, Lambeau Field, or Clemson. For Notre Dame fans across the country, this season includes several of the best venues and matchups during the Brian Kelly era. Since the successful trip to Ireland in 2012, Irish fans have been looking for an excuse to make the journey back to Dublin. College GameDay is even set to make their first appearance overseas for this Notre Dame Navy rivalry.

Conversely, Lambeau Field is at the top of the bucket list for many Notre Dame fans and will likely be the only time the Irish play at the historic venue during their lifetime. This fall, the Wisconsin Badgers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are set to clash at the field named after Irish legend Curly Lambeau, a series scheduled almost three years ago.

Dabo Swinney visits South Bend. While the football program has recently competed against Clemson in 2015 and 2018, “Swinney vs. Kelly” has yet to be played at Notre Dame Stadium. Yes, South Bend has not been known for ruckus crowds, but for matchups like these you can guarantee the stadium will be compared to Notre Dame USC circa 2005 and Notre Dame Miami circa 1988.

Potentially Rescheduling

What happens to these agreements? If the matchups are not played this year, the schedule will move on to the 2021 calendar of games. For the ACC matchups there is little uncertainty because the Irish play each opponent on a regular basis. For opponents like Wisconsin and Arkansas, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick will likely push these games out to future dates.

For the sake of Irish fans everywhere, the Notre Dame Wisconsin game at Lambeau Field needs to be played at some point. Even Brian Kelly has mentioned the home of the Packers is at the top of his list.

Do players maintain eligibility?

The NCAA may give athletes another year of eligibility. The collegiate athletic system is centered on a four-year student-athlete with potential fifth-year due to injuries, transfers, and more. With football rosters already close to triple digits, allowing an entire group of players to stay an extra year would overwhelm the system.

Even if the NCAA allowed more scholarship athletes, what would happen to the players who were waiting for their chance once an upperclassman graduated?

Freshmen and backups will lose opportunities. Yes, it is unfair that many spring and winter athletes had their senior seasons taken away from them. But if they are granted another year, they could be taking away senior seasons from players behind them and could potentially crowd the depth charts for underclassmen who would have to face players potentially 4+ years older than themselves.

Recruits cannot visit campus. One of the biggest competitive advantages for Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Recruiting effort is the legendary campus. If the coaching staff is unable to get players on campus, this will negatively impact the recruiting strategy.

Final Thoughts

Less than 160 days until Notre Dame faces Navy. This article is intended to address a possible scenario. For many people, sports play a vital part in their lives, and this scenario may sadly become a reality. It’s important to understand the potential repercussions that may take place without college football, the same setbacks that spring sports have already faced.

Canceling the football season overloads the system. College football is one of the countless entities across the country that has been negatively impacted by the virus. Schedules are determined many years prior, teams only have enough room for a certain number of players, and programs are designed to have several months of preparation before competing.

In this ever-changing world, Brian Kelly will have to hope for the best and have his team ready for this fall but also be prepared for the worst, a year without college football. Unfortunately, a phrase I never thought I would have to use during my lifetime.

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  1. I wonder if there’s a possibility for a shortened season if they can’t safely start the season on time? Obviously there’s a lot of question marks regarding that–what games do you cut? Just the first 4 for every team no matter who they are if it’s cut to an 8 game season. By agreement? What about elibibility? But it could be another option other than just outright cancelling the season.

    And if they do cancel the season what about just moving every schedule back a year? Obviously every school that plays in Division I (including the II schools involved) would need to agree to something like that. What I mean is play who you were going to play 2020 in 2021, move 2021’s schedule to 2022 and so forth. Sort of like what the Olympics did but on a much larger scale. I actually think you might get schools to agree to that because it’s less complicated than trying to renegotiate everything. There might be some rejuggling you’ll need to do (such as our game with Wisconsin–will the field be open the corresponding week in 2021) but I imagine the schools can work that out.

  2. How depressing will it be if this happens, for real? Fall is my favorite time of the year for two reasons…ND football and the weather. You look forward to this all year long and to have it wiped would be pretty devastating.

    I can’t even imagine how the players must be feeling. Even if the NCAA grants them another year to come back, do they have to be in school full time? I would think some may have graduated, even with their masters in some cases. That would suck to have to be in school for another year of classes just to see another year on the field when you basically won’t use that last year of classes.

    1. Re: raucous crowds – special ecstatic moments like Penick taking it the distance vs. SC in ’73 will always be remembered as a very loud joyous eruption of celebration. That was the payback for the Anthony Davis-led fiasco in ’73, but enough of that!
      I was lucky enough to be there for that sweet payback, as Eric outran their D’ to the end zone where I sat. Google it- it’s worth another look.
      But as far as recent raucous crowds, ND stomping Stanford 9/29/18 -from D.Williams first touch of the season for a TD, forever among the legendary plays in ND stadium. But the overall energy and noise during that drubbing of the Cardinal (38-17, 14-0 in the fourth quarter) remain the best most-electrically charged entire game loudness of an ND crowd I was ever a part of.
      Clemson next year must be that! I hope we get that chance.

      1. ’88 MIAMI was the loudest I ever heard our stadium. You could not talk to the person sitting next to you…you could not even hear your own voice.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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