Bill Beekman has a dream.
The Michigan State athletic director sees his football program playing 12 games in the fall of 2021, hosting fans at some and traveling to others. In this fantasy, he even imagines the Spartans matching up with a few nonconference opponents and dropping a little cash for some old-fashioned guarantees.
As Beekman shared his vision Thursday during a Zoom call with reporters, everyone listening was transported back eight months to a different time, when this flight of fancy Beekman described was the norm so many took for granted.
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Snap back to the reality of the present day and it just seems wishful thinking. It had barely been 48 hours since the Big Ten announced that it had postponed football indefinitely, leaving the conference with an uncertain future and a host of issues to resolve.
One head coach in the league told the Free Press on Tuesday that he had “more questions than answers. But [I] need a couple of days to see what the plan is.”
He’s still waiting, although there is at least a proposal to consider.
That was delivered on Thursday, courtesy of Purdue coach Jeff Brohm.
Brohm concocted a plan that would entail staging 18 games in an 11-month window that would open in late February, close in January 2022, and elapse over two seasons.
Teams would play eight times in the spring, take a break starting in April or May, and then begin a fall slate in October that consists of 10 contests.
The format of Brohm’s detailed proposal doesn’t exactly align with Beekman’s vision of the 2021 fall schedule, which isn’t surprising in a fragmented college sports environment rife with competing interests and priorities.
Beekman said earlier this week that Michigan State could lose up to $85 million in revenue if football is not played this fiscal year, so it makes sense for him to want to preserve the possibility of returning to a regular schedule 13 months from now if that means fans can walk through the gates for the full allotment of home games.
“I think when we think about having a robust, normal ‘21 season the question is: What do we have to do to back into that being normal and how much time do we have to provide such that our students have a full opportunity to recover, to have time off, to let their bodies heal?” Beekman said. “So, I think that is a very real consideration and that may push us to have a spring season that is a little shorter in nature that we may otherwise hope, that maybe runs a little earlier.”
That last idea, of course, invites its own set of problems.
Starting a season in January or February in the upper Midwest would force teams to practice indoors, which is not conducive to mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, at the height of summer, Michigan State emerged from a 14-day quarantine after enduring an uptick in cases. Consequently, it is well-aware of the potential pitfalls created by infection and the disruption it can spawn.
As one Spartans staffer said, a spring season is “going to probably depend on where the virus is and if there’s a vaccine that is attainable.”
In the meantime, Beekman is attempting to navigate a challenging situation with an open mind. When a reporter asked about the potential for crossover games with the Pac-12, which joined the Big Ten and postponed fall sports, the Michigan State athletic director beamed a smile.
“There is a lot of conversation to try to find some ways to make some lemonade out of this lemon and think through some of these ideas,” he responded. “I don’t think anything specific. I think a lot of things are being thrown out to see what sticks.”
Beekman is not above letting his imagination run wild.
But what he truly wants is a return to normalcy.
He would like nothing more than to see football as it was in 2019 – with 12 games and fans in the stands yelling, “Go Green!”
Maybe a year from now it will be an imminent reality. Maybe.