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Was Playing College Football This Year Really Worth It?

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide walks on the field during the third quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Alabama wrapped up the 2020 college football season by cruising past Ohio State, 52-24. For a lot of the teams, players, staff, coaches, and others involved in the season of uncertainty it may not have been worth it for every school.

The Crimson Tide winning the national title seems like it was worth it for them. However, was it for UMass who after first electing to not play football restarted the season to go on the road for all four of its games, lose them all in a blowout fashion, and all while scoring 12 total points?

It also may not have been worth it for New Mexico who had to play all road games and set up base camp in Las Vegas just to ensure they earned revenue from a media rights deal.

Players had to make the tough choice to put themselves at risk for COVID-19 and potential long-term health risks that are still unknown to play a game with no hazard pay and only a scholarship for compensation. A lot decided the risk was not worth it, and some opted out to prep for the NFL Draft and others didn’t play and will be back next year.

The answer is complicated and it can be yes and no depending on the team and personal situation.

For BYU, the answer is a clear yes, even with a schedule that was cut down to basically nothing just weeks before. The Cougars worked hard to get in a schedule and athletics director Tom Holmoe did an amazing job by having an 11-game season plus a bowl berth.

It did wonders for exposure for BYU which showcased quarterback Zach Wilson who is very likely going to be a first-round draft pick after the performance he put in and the team finished 11th in the final Associated Press top 25 and that was its highest finish since ending the year 12th back in 2009.

Utah started its season late and it is a mixed bag as they lost players to injury like quarterback Cam Rising but the final game saw the Utes drastically improve to finish with a three-game winning streak.

Utah State had a year where the Aggies played poorly and ended up firing head coach Gary Andersen during the middle of the abbreviated season.

This is not to mention all of the games that were canceled and the players and coaches who contracted COVID-19 while trying to play a sport for the entertainment of others and money for the universities.

How Committed Were These Teams?

This 2020 season had so many teams jumping through hoops to get games in by rescheduling contests, showing up to games and then not playing, prolonged road trips, and not having a traditional college football season.

KSL Sports Scott Mitchell feels after looking back at the 2020 season that a lot of teams’ hearts were not fully invested in playing college football during a global pandemic.

“You have Ohio State, who’s a team that really wanted to play football. I don’t think a lot of teams really wanted to play football this year. I really don’t,” Mitchell said on KSL’s UnRivaled. “So, there’s a part of me that says most of college football — I would say a majority of the schools — and teams were probably half in it. I think a lot of it boiled down to fans, I think it boiled down to testing, I think it boiled down to cancel games, late starts, you know, and schedules being minimized.”

The one thing Mitchell agreed upon with most is that for BYU it was 100 percent worth it because of how the season turned out. As for the Utes, he agrees the season did have its benefits despite it being just five games.

“If you’re a BYU fan, nobody handled it better than BYU,” Mitchell added. “If you’re a Utah fan it was actually a remarkable season as well in the sense that all these young players got to play and got game experience for Utah, which is phenomenal and it didn’t count, right? It was just like, yeah, this is just like a freebie.”

KSL Sports’ Alex Kirry compares the decision to play college football to some late-night fast food that seemed to be a brilliant decision at the time.

“The problem is, college football was worth it for the right now,” Kirry said. “Just like that burrito on your way home at midnight is quote-unquote worth it in that moment. Yes, it is. That’s what 2020 football was. It was just that bad decision burrito late going. You’re eating that thing at one o’clock in the morning.

“Anyway, that’s the best burrito I’ve ever had, but then 4 a.m. comes around and you say, ‘maybe that was not such a good decision’ but I liked it in the moment. Maybe it doesn’t end up being a good decision overall because what you end up getting is is a bigger disparity [in college football].”

Being able to watch college football each week this fall was a treat and an escape from what was happening in the world, and the downside that was broadcast loud and clear was that teams were not at full strength making games less fun knowing kids are sitting out due to contracting COVID-19 and the constant fear that the game you wanted to watch was not going to kick off until it actually did.

The main point is that it depends on what lens one is looking through to decide if playing a college football season was worth it or not this past year.


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