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A COVID Revelation: College Football Wastes Labor Day Weekend

Instead of missing football this past Labor Day weekend, I found I actually had missed getting a last chance to enjoy summer the last few years.

Iowa’s Great Lakes just keep luring ‘em back Josh Noel/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

For the first time in over 20 years, I didn’t spend part of my Labor Day weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska for a Husker football game.

And a confession: I didn’t miss it at all. In fact, I actually enjoyed it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Husker football. But I’ve grown to realize that the opening weekend of college football has been wasting the last big weekend of summer, and not having a Husker game to go to confirmed it.

Part of it was that this year, virtually nobody was playing on Labor Day weekend. The biggest name playing was BYU at Navy on Labor Day night in a game that probably should have been called by a mercy rule at halftime. Arkansas State at Memphis was ESPN’s prime time game. That’s not exactly the Big Ten’s fault; everyone else has pulled back. That’s the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. And even if Nebraska somehow could have started the season, it would be unrealistic to plan to attend. Bill Moos might have been the old administrator in the country still planning on a mostly full football stadium by the time August rolled around. Most likely, the stands would have been empty with a slight possibility that Nebraska could have accommodated 10,000 to 15,000 fans in a socially distanced manner.

Instead, I had a blast on Labor Day weekend with the family. We went biking and swimming. Went for long walks and got giant ice cream cones. (Socially distant and wearing a mask quite a bit.) Yeah, I saw a few college football highlights on Twitter, but Army laying Middle Tennessee State to waste did nothing to drag me inside to a television. Frankly, barring the skies opening up and washing out the weekend, I had no inclination to watch football on this opening weekend.

To me, college football needs to either go all-in or get off of Labor Day weekend. It used to be that the college football season didn’t start until the weekend after Labor Day, and frankly, this Labor Day weekend showed me that there are plenty of other things to do with a three day weekend than spend one day watching football. I’m fine with no football on Labor Day weekend.

But if college football is going to play Labor Day weekend, then play football all friggin’ weekend. Move half of the games from Saturday to Sunday and Monday. Make it a football bonanza all weekend long with tripleheaders each day on TV. The NFL isn’t playing, so take advantage of that three-day weekend. If somebody wants to play on Thursday or Friday night, go right ahead. In fact, let’s create a sample 2020 Labor Day weekend Big Ten schedule with the pre-COVID games:

Thursday night: Florida Atlantic at Minnesota
Friday night: Illinois State at Illinois
Saturday 11 am: Monmouth at Rutgers
Saturday 2:30 pm: Northwestern at Michigan State
Saturday Primetime: Indiana at Wisconsin
Sunday Noon: Towson at Maryland
Sunday 4 pm: Bowling Green at Ohio State
Sunday Primetime: Purdue at Nebraska
Monday Noon: Northern Iowa at Iowa
Monday Afternoon: Kent State at Penn State
Monday Primetime: Michigan at Washington

Now cascade that across the rest of college football, and you’ve got a reason to watch all weekend. Yeah, there are a few clunkers in there...forced to the early kick times. But another league will certainly find a decent game to show on another network.

Will I miss Husker football this weekend? Maybe a bit, but I suspect it won’t be until I start seeing the Big XII and the other two Power Five conferences start playing in a week or two. I know I will when we get to October.

But Labor Day weekend? Nah. If anything, I learned how much I miss having a free three-day weekend.