Scott German: Now that the college football season is over, was it worth it?
Monday night in Miami Beach, the 2020 college football season ended just as many a year ago thought it would – with Alabama winning the national championship.
The Crimson Tide destroyed Ohio State 52-24 in the title game, in front of less than 15,000 fans in the 80,000-seat Hard Rock Stadium. The Monday night win over the Buckeyes was the least-watched national title game in College Football Playoff history.
The nearly empty stadium was due to COVID-19 protocols, but the 18.7 million people who watched the game across ESPN’s various platforms was more than 6 million fewer than watched LSU defeat Clemson for the national championship a year ago.
Heading into the college football year, the most pressing question heading into the season was whether the season would even start – and if it did, how long could it last.
The challenges college football faced in navigating the pandemic were indeed unique. Many were pessimistic the season would ever reach Monday evening when it began Aug. 29 with the Guardian Kickoff Classic between Austin Peay and Central Arkansas.
From the Governors vs. Bears to the Crimson Tide vs. The Buckeyes – what a leap the 2020 season was.
When COVID-19 started to spread across the country last March, and other college sports pulled the plug on their spring seasons, questions abounded about how the pandemic would impact football in the fall.
Even at the early stage, it was apparent that the 2020 season would look like nothing college football fans could ever imagine.
In 1918 – yes, 1918 – the Spanish flu forced some schools to call off their seasons with some schools playing a full season.
Where 2020 looks nothing like 1918, every FBS conference ultimately decided to come back and play at least a partial season. Only three teams – Connecticut, New Mexico State and Old Dominion – decided to sit out the season in the interest of player health.
In the end, 127 teams played at least part of the season that concluded in South Florida Monday evening.
Plenty supported the idea to play football in 2020, some on the grounds of financial responsibility, others on the belief that the players were safer under the athletic department “bubble.”
My opinion regarding the rationale of having a 2020 season lies somewhere in between: college football has a significant value in our communities as a binding force. So many of the traditions of college football, like tailgates, pep rallies, halftime shows, were excised from the sport this season – yet somehow, some way, the sport lived on.
In 2020, more than ever, this season many looked to fall Saturdays as a means in which to escape the strains of an ongoing pandemic, the mental and physical tolls of isolation and economic losses.
What we learned from this season is that many of us love college football for what it delivers: an opportunity to unite, to celebrate – with one another, to remove ourselves for even a few hours of the stress of our everyday lives.
Was the 2020 season worth it?
Indeed it was . No asterisks, no excuses. Just a huge thank you to all the players that stepped up and displayed a great deal more of maturity than many of the adults they were playing for.
Job well done.
Story by Scott German