Kirk Herbstreit can’t say whether college football will happen this fall.
But the ESPN college football analyst said in a teleconference with reporters Monday that leaders in college football have built at least three contingency plans for how to proceed with college football, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’ve talked with decision makers in the college game, and they’ve built three or four contingency plans, based on what happens with the virus and what Dr. (Anthony) Fauci and others recommend, and the president and state governors,” Herbstreit said.
The first, Herbstreit said, was to maintain the status quo in college football, which means preseason practices would begin on time in late July and early August, and the season would begin as scheduled.
College football season is scheduled to begin Aug. 29 with seven games, including Notre Dame-Navy in Dublin, Ireland. The University at Buffalo football team is scheduled to open its season Sept. 5 at Kansas State.
The most extreme plan, Herbstreit said, involves starting football season after the New Year.
“They’ve built it all the way back to a willingness to start in late February or March. Turning it into a spring sport, and playing in March and April in May, with a postseason in June,” Herbstreit said. “That would be a last-ditch effort, which just proves how willing the administrators are, along with the NCAA and the conference commissioners and ADs and presidents, to have a college football season.
"They’re going to do everything they can, if it goes to that extreme, to potentially have a 2020 season. A lot of this has been a feeling-out process, and we’re going to wait to see what the data shows.”
Administrators also have to weigh various factors when considering how and when the season will start, as well as the risk of contagion among people involved in college football.
“Can you imagine what would happen with college football if they hurry back and a player or a coach or a referee or somebody gets this virus and gets sick and dies?” Herbstreit said. “That’s something they’ve got to think about and want to, obviously, avoid.”
During an appearance on ESPN radio in late March, Herbstreit said that he would be “shocked” if football season went on as planned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I'll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I'll be so surprised if that happens," Herbstreit said last month. "Just because, from what I understand, people that I listen to, you're 12 to 18 months from a vaccine. I don't know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don't know how you can do it with the optics of it."
Herbstreit said Monday that his comments in March regarding college football and Covid-19 were “misconstrued.”
“That was kind of misconstrued, misrepresented based on what I said in a radio interview, and how it was taken by a lot of people,” Herbstreit said. “This was from late March, March 24 or 25. I'd just gotten back from spring break, and I was talking to a friend who works at ESPN Radio, Ian Fitzsimmons. and I was almost just thinking out loud.
"I was like, ‘Hey man, this thing is scary, we may not have football.’ I was kind of thinking out loud, at that point.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of data and a lot of information, and I even said during the inteiview ‘This thing is changing by the day, the week, the hour.’ A lot will change in the coming weeks."
And, he added, “I’m not making any predictions. I was trying to make how real this pandemic is.”