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The following is the second in a three-part series of interviews with NIU athletic director about how the school and department are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this entry Frazier shares his thoughts on how he's preparing for football season – or the lack there of
Spring sports aren't happening for the NCAA.
And while Sean Frazier said he doesn't know what to expect for the football season, the NIU athletic director said he's hoping for the best while preparing the worst – the worst being the total cancellation of the 2020 college football season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are expecting a football season. But we are modeling for everything in between," Frazier said. "Worst-case scenario, no season. Are we modeling financial expectations and impacts? Absolutely. We've gone from modeling no football season to a delay, postponement and everything in between."
Frazier stressed that everything is hypothetical at this point. The NCAA has not made plans any further than the cancellation of its spring seasons.
He said that the department has been running through different scenarios of what may happen in the fall. He said it ranges from a full cancellation, to business as usual, to cancellation of non-conference games. They've been working with the conference and supporters to see scenarios for the fall.
"There's no substitute for daily preparation," Frazier said. "For me to not prepare for the worst, is first of all not like us. But secondly, we have to make sure because we don't know. The COVID-19 scare is not a scare. It's real. People are dying. We have to pay attention to this stuff. And now experts are talking about a second cycle where we get through it and then all of a sudden it comes back because of the colder winter weather. We have to be thinking about all those different models."
The NIU football season is set to begin on September 5 against Rhode Island at DeKalb. The Huskies then go to Maryland, Eastern Michigan and Iowa to round out the September schedule.
NIU also has a game against BYU slated for October 24 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.
Frazier said there was no number available for what would be lost from the cancellation of the football season, but he said the effects would be far-reaching.
"It's not just devastating for us. It would be devastating for college athletics in general," Frazier said. "I'll be bold enough to say that. You take a look at football and what it generates versus what the NCAA basketball tournament generates, I think their number was what, $600 million is what they're projected to lose from not having an NCAA basketball tournament."
He said that number could hit the billions pretty quickly - perhaps even quadruple what the tournament lost just on virtue of what a football game means to different institutions.
"My alma mater Alabama, Wisconsin, Oklahoma. You can do that research to see what one football game means to the revenue of a specific department," Frazier said. "Then multiply that over a 12 or 13 game season. And that's just the games, not the endorsements and the concessions and the TV deals and everything that goes along with that one game alone."
A canceled season would reshape college athletics, he said, not just college football.
"The impact of those numbers would be draconian," Frazier said. "I think taking a look at our operation, you can do the math. We're a $30 million operation and you take a look at football being a major hub for engagement with our alumni, engagement with our donor base. We have a multimedia rights component. We're selling ad sponsorships. The ESPN deal. The tentacles are far-reaching for our football operation."
Frazier said he's looking forward to getting the college football season in, but is just making sure the department and school are prepared for the worst.
Although, he added, the impact would be felt beyond the boundaries of the school
"As NIU goes, the economic impact for DeKalb-Sycamore is also felt," Frazier said. "I'm pretty sure there's a lot of local vendors I frequent, my favorite restaurants that are around. They will be significantly impacted by those decisions. That's why it's so important we model and are prepared on a daily basis."