LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – New Mexico State University (NMSU) became the 54th Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program to cancel or postpone their football season to the spring on Thursday. You better believe the NMSU athletic department will do everything in their power to get student-athletes on the field in the spring.
“We certainly want to play in the spring along with the other 53 schools who have made this football decision,” said NMSU director of athletics Mario Moccia. “What that looks like, we don’t know at the present time.”
The idea of spring football has been tossed around without much basis to it. What does spring football look like? How many games will be played? Who will play? If schools participate in spring football, will they still be able to play a full season in the fall of 2021?
Along with most everything during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more questions than answers.
The Big Ten Conference made national headlines when they became the first Power Five Conference to push the football season to the spring. Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm has come up with a plan that calls for an eight-game regular season in the spring, starting at the end of February and ending in mid-April. Playoffs would begin and end in May. The fall 2021 season would be cut to just 10 games, down from a normal 12-game season, and starts Oct. 2, with a traditional postseason.
While Brohm’s idea seems nice and well-thought-out, it received instant push back. Most every athletic program that has canceled or postponed fall football is citing, “health and safety concerns” for student-athletes. How is playing two, seemingly, full football seasons in one calendar year putting the health and safety of the players first? Simple, it’s not.
“I just worry about the health of the players physically — not from COVID-19 — but just physically with injuries and those types of things,” said NMSU head football coach Doug Martin. “If you play up to eight games or even ten games in the spring and then turn right back around and play in the fall — football wise — you’re really starting to tax those young men quite a bit.”
The task is tall to devise a plan that will not only work for the big boys of college football in the Big Ten and Pac-12, but the little guys like NMSU as well. Then there’s the issue of eligibility. Will the student-athletes who do not get the opportunity to play this academic year be forced to give up a year of eligibility? If a shortened spring season is played, would that mean giving up a year of eligibility?
Losing out on a year of college football is tough to stomach for fans, but it’s even tougher for the student-athletes, most of which who have worked tirelessly to prepare for an upcoming season that has now been pushed back.
So, what is the alternative? Moccia, a former college baseball player at NMSU now turned athletic director, has a plan:
“Could we have a four-game spring and still retain eligibility? You’re allowed to play four football games and still retain your eligibility,” said Moccia. “Maybe we could use that as a glorified spring practice so you’re not taxing the team with too many games.”
Four games wouldn’t be much, but it would be better than nothing. It is also better than giving up a year of eligibility for student-athletes just to play an eight game season in the spring. Some of these football players have aspirations to play at the next level. For those who are not surefire first or second round NFL draft picks, film is important. Every game is an opportunity to put out tape.
There will be more ideas regarding the viability of a spring season in the months to come, but what is crucial is not to lose sight of what is most important: the student-athlete.