Right now, everyone is playing the guessing game when it comes to when sports will return. Some guesses are a little more informed than others and we can count Chris Fowler among those with some insider knowledge.
The long-time ESPN broadcaster, who hosted College GameDay for 25 years, provided some insight on when he's hearing college football will return for the upcoming season and what it will look like. Calling it "informed speculation" based on conversations he's had with people who are part of planning the next college football season, Fowler laid out three scenarios he sees for the 2020-2021 season.
1. College football starts on time.
2. College football is delayed and they play a shortened season.
3. An idea he heard is "gaining momentum" is college football starts in February 2021 and is played until May-June.
The first scenario seems the least likely because, as Fowler mentions, a lot of local governments and individual schools will be involved with the decision making process and each area and school will be at different stages of recovery. Fowler also said they need to know by the end of May if that will happen so they can plan accordingly. Assume this scenario is off the table, though they do need to plan for it.
The second scenario is football starting late and fewer games being played. The issue there is fewer games means less money, which seems like a primary driver of all these decisions. We also don't know if the disease will return in the winter when the temperatures drop and starting and stopping the season would be a worst-case scenario because it would be very hard to restart the season again. Just look at what's happening right now with the NBA, NHL and other winter leagues.
The third scenario is the most different from what we're used to, but seemingly most realistic. By February, when college football would start, the expectation is testing will have improved and perhaps treatment at that point will be better too. That would allow all schools to be opened, which is the most important element of getting the season started. The players have to be on campus, after all, and their health has to be the No. 1 consideration.
This all remains speculative and, as Fowler mentioned, is based on things he's hearing. But it's clear the wheels are in motion and any idea is on the table, including a national championship in the heat of early summer.