While forecasts for the college football season remain far from agreement, one member of the sport’s hierarchy struck a highly optimistic tone Wednesday.
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN’s Paul Finebaum that he remains “cautiously optimistic” the season will start on time, adding that he expects student-athletes to return to USF and all other league campuses at varying points in June.
“I don’t see any reason myself to delay the season if we get our health and safety protocols in place,” Aresco said. “And obviously there will be testing protocols in place as we get into the season and before.”
Aresco, holding the league’s annual spring meetings remotely this week, was quick to attach qualifiers to his statement.
And those “ifs” are significant, he acknowledged: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus must keep receding, states must afford schools the flexibility to bring student-athletes back on campus, and health protocols must prove effective over the course of the summer.
If some states don’t allow full practicing by July, Aresco said, he envisions “a checkerboard season,” with some early games perhaps going away.
“Every question begets 10 other questions,” said Aresco, whose conference includes 11 teams from nine states (UCF is also a Florida member). “Maybe everybody can’t start on time, but if we can start that first week, and most of your teams can, I think our league would feel that you should get going.”
And if one or two AAC schools can’t play at all, Aresco said, the league likely would forge ahead anyway.
“Our (athletic directors’) and our presidents’ feeling was, one school or two schools wouldn’t want to hold the others back,” he said. “We would be likely to play with nine or 10. We haven’t made a final decision yet, but that’s one of the issues that’s going to come up. And as I said, every question begets 10 others.”
USF announced Wednesday that it will start fall classes in person, then move them online again after students and faculty travel for Thanksgiving break.