One of the sidebars coming out of college football's cancellation-palooza on Tuesday is the possibility of conference realignment -- if only temporarily for one season. More specifically, the idea that college football teams from conferences that end up canceling their seasons would seek to play on their own.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost suggested his program would have "options" playing in another league this season now that the Big Ten has canceled the 2020 season. That led to widespread speculation on social media regarding any number of schools jumping conferences to play for one season only.
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Both Ohio State's Ryan Day and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh made strong social statements Monday in support of playing the 2020 season. This while the Big Ten at least appears to be planning for a potential cancellation.
"It's not optimal. Is it conceivable? Sure," one Power Five administrator told CBS Sports.
That might be a stretch.
A prominent television executive told CBS Sports that the Big Ten's TV contract with the Big Ten Network, Fox and ESPN might preclude the Cornhuskers from becoming a "free agent" for the 2020 season.
Such a restriction would be similar to the grant of rights agreements in the Big 12 and ACC. Those grants bind schools' TV rights to a specific conference for a period of years. The ACC's grant of rights goes to 2036, while the Big 12's lasts until 2025.
If a school leaves before those dates, the conference from which it departs would own its TV rights. That has been more than enough to keep those teams in place.
"It would be hard" for Nebraska to move, that TV executive said.
Still, it's fun to speculate. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West plus UConn, Old Dominion and UMass have all canceled their 2020 seasons. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and MWC are hoping to play in spring 2021.
The Pac-12 canceled its 2020 season shortly after the Big Ten did Tuesday, leaving the ACC, Big 12 and SEC to make decisions about whether to move on and play this season. The ACC has said it "absolutely" intends to play this season, while the SEC says its medical experts have given it the green light to play at this time. The Big 12 is struggling to decide.
Notre Dame has temporarily joined the ACC for one year in 2020. It will add its $15 million payout from NBC into the league's coffers and receive an equal piece of the total TV rights pie.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, commissioners suggested, if only a group of schools from a conference could go forward, it would be possible for them to play. Somewhere.
"It's probably like Major League Baseball where you sign a free agent on July 31 where you know you're only going to keep him through the playoffs," that Power Five administrator said.
Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten in 2011. Since then, its fans have at times yearned for the days when the Huskers dominated the conference that it joined when it was called the Missouri Valley in 1907. Nebraska hasn't won a conference title since 1999.
What started as a rumor is at least now a talking point.
A Power Five coach contacted CBS Sports on Saturday night to inquire about the idea schools joining the Pac-12. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby actually raised the issue on Sunday in a moment of joking and dismissed it out of hand with laugh.
"I don't know what's going on in the Big Ten, but I know there are certain schools that aren't happy with the circumstance," the Power Five administrator said.
"If you're at a place that wants to consider to play, and your administration and state deem it OK to play, it's incumbent upon you to do what you can to see how that can happen."