North Dakota State may have lost a football game for the first time in three years on Thursday.
The news was grim for fans of college football, eerily similar to the day we experienced in March when college basketball tournaments around the country were shut down. 24 hours after the Ivy League announced its conference would not hold any fall sports, the Big Ten Conference made a startling move.
The league announced that its schools would go to conference-only schedules, most notably football for this upcoming season. The ripple effect will be felt in the FCS world, where four Missouri Valley Football Conference schools will lose high priced games off their schedule. South Dakota State at Nebraska, Southern Illinois at Wisconsin, Northern Iowa at Iowa and Illinois State at Illinois. All gone. The combined price tag is 2.765 million dollars. That money keeps athletic programs solvent and afloat for the fiscal year. UNI has to find a way to get 650 thousand back, cause it’s not coming from Iowa.
Some of the paydays now gone:
NDSU 650K w/Oregon
UNI 650K w/Iowa
SDSU 515K w/Nebraska
SIU 500K w/Wisconsin
Illinois State 450K w/Illinois
2.765 million dollars total. Gone.
— Dom Izzo (@DomIzzoWDAY) July 9, 2020
With this background, North Dakota State is on pins and needles tonight. The Athletic reported Thursday afternoon that the PAC-12 wouldn’t be far behind in making a similar decision that the Big Ten made and playing just league games. That means so long to the most anticipated football game in Bison history.
— Nicole Auerbach 😷 (@NicoleAuerbach) July 9, 2020
NDSU enters 2020 with an FCS record 37 game win streak, the last three FCS national championships and a highly touted sophomore quarterback who’s getting NFL Draft buzz after an award winning freshman year. The spotlight has never been brighter on the Bison. To match that, they would be matching up with the PAC-12 champions, the Rose Bowl champions, who have what many consider the best offensive lineman in the country and a rising defensive lineman. That was the backdrop to what ESPN called “one of its most intriguing games of 2020.”
That appears to be gone now. As is the 650 thousand dollar payday that NDSU was scheduled to get. Oregon will likely enact the “force majeure” clause and neither side would be liable to pay the other.
I feel for the more than 11 thousand Bison fans who had requested tickets to go to Eugene for the game. Some told they were still going to go and watch the game from a sports bar if the game still happened but fans weren’t allowed in. Now we’ll be left with one of the greatest what if’s in recent sports memory.
What would have happened when NDSU played Oregon? Would the Bison win streak against FBS teams finally have ended against the most talented squad NDSU has ever played? Or would Trey Lance get a chance to shine on the national stage and the Bison would shock the college football world on national TV? That alone makes you want to shake your head.
Beyond losing the Oregon game, now I wonder about the rest of the season. I’ve been pretty open with my feelings about the college football season seemingly daily on my show. Optimism was low in April to a season happening to the potential of actually playing by Memorial Day to now wondering again, “How can they play this fall?” And the basic question still hasn’t been answered, if someone tests positive or a cluster of players test positive for COVID-19, what happens? Does that team have to cancel the rest of the season? What about the team they previously played? Is their next game affected?
Every question has an answer that leads to another question. That’s how it has seemed since the middle of March.
We all want college football back. But it appears less likely by the day that that is going to happen. And now the Bison have their first loss in football in three years.