After a spring of no sports, fans everywhere are nervous about the status of college football this fall.
Universities around the country have had to deal with financial issues related to COVID-19. That includes cutting sports in some instances.
A month ago, NCAA President Mark Emmert stated “If a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”
Heading into the month of June, colleges are officially taking steps to have student-athletes on campus in preparation for a 2020 college football season.
Illinois begins the return of athletes
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced in late May plans to bring back student-athletes. That plan was to begin on Wednesday.
Student-athletes who participate in football and men’s basketball will be among the first to return, on a volunteer basis.
Around 10-15 athletes will be brought in at a time. Those athletes will undergo early testing and then be in quarantine until beginning workouts on June 11.
For the Illini football team, BetMGM is listing them with +8,000 odds to win the Big Ten Conference. Ohio State is the strong favorite with a -250 line.
Illinois has +50,000 odds to win the national championship. FanDuel lists Illinois at +40,000 to win it all in the 2020 season.
Illinois is coming off a 6-7 record in 2019, including a 4-5 Big Ten record. Lovie Smith is 15-34 in four years with the Illini, with the 2019 season being his best showing yet.
Northwestern puts in six-stage plan
Fellow Big Ten school, Northwestern University, announced a six-stage plan for a return to campus back on May 22.
The return for athletes hasn’t been set by the university, but head coach Pat Fitzgerald is still hopeful for voluntary workouts in June.
“At a certain point, you’re going to have to raise your hand and say ‘I’m in,’” Fitzgerald told The Daily Northwestern. “And that will probably have to happen school by school and conference by conference.”
Oddsmakers at BetMGM Sportsbook Illinois have Northwestern with +5,000 odds to win the Big Ten in 2020. The Wildcats are listed with +40,000 odds to win the national championship.
FanDuel has the Wildcats’ odds at +30,000 to win the national title.
The Wildcats are coming off a rough 2019 season that saw them go 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Big Ten.
Fitzgerald brought in a new offensive coordinator in Mike Bajakian in hopes of improving an offense that ranked eighth-worst in total yards in 2019.
Northwestern is entering its 15th season with Fitzgerald as head coach. He is 99-79 overall and 57-59 in the Big Ten. Last season was his worst outing during his tenure with the Wildcats.
Northern Illinois with less optimism
The Mid-American Conference has faced financial hardships during this pandemic. As the 2020 fall seasons approach, Northern Illinois University Athletic Director Sean Frazier has stated he can envision a “modified season” for the Huskies.
NIU is eying a return for student-athletes to campus in mid-to-late June. However, Frazier is holding strong that some non-student athletes must be on campus in order for athletics to take place.
“There have to be some classes on campus. That is an absolute for me,” Frazier told The Chicago Tribune.
Frazier also noted that any players who opt to not participate because of concerns over their health would retain their scholarships.
BetMGM lists Northern Illinois with +650 odds to win the MAC in 2020. Buffalo is the favorite at +300.
Understandably, NIU is listed with +100,000 odds to win the national championship.
The Huskies were just 5-7 in 2019, with a 4-4 mark in the MAC. It was their first season under head coach Thomas Hammock. As a program, NIU has won the MAC four times since 2011.