Ahead of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes' meeting in the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 11, hot takes discussing the No. 1-No. 3 matchup are pouring in from fans and analysts alike. But perhaps the hottest take came from the New York Times, which says that neither team deserves the title.
NYT sports columnist Kurt Streeter controversially proclaimed the University of Connecticut the "real champion" of the 2020-2021 season, as it was the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to cancel its entire season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Per the Times:
In August, it seemed as if a full-fledged collegiate football season might not happen. That’s when Connecticut, ranked among the worst teams in the nation, rose to the top of the heap, killing its season and leading the sport toward sanity.
Entire leagues in college football’s upper tier followed, a brief show of conscience. Then the money-grabbing backpedal began.
The worst wafflers were the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, which lacked the fortitude to stand by their decision when they saw the other major conferences suiting up. They couldn’t resist the hundreds of millions in television revenue and the chance to reach the national title game, where Ohio State will represent the Big Ten.
In the end, out of 130 F.B.S. teams, only three sat out the season: Old Dominion and New Mexico State joined Connecticut. “It was simply the right thing,” UConn Coach Randy Edsall said over the phone last week. “I never questioned the decision we made. Not once.”
If more coaches were willing to take such a stand, maybe we could have avoided the folly of college football during the pandemic.
After a fair amount of what could be characterized as pontificating, Streeter briefly mentioned UConn football's "lowly" status—its had several terrible consecutive years, having won a mere six games over the last three seasons. He also added that the program lost $13 million in 2019. Both The Spun and commenters pointed to the deficit—not altruism—as the real reason that UConn canceled its season.
"I’m sure their decision was totally about player safety and had nothing to do with the fact they were an independent without a conference, were 3-21 in their last two seasons, and were losing money on their football program," one person responded.
Many others disagreed with Streeter's take:
Within the heavily ratioed reply thread, there were at least two people who showed support for the pointed opinion:
"The inconvenient truth. Bullseye!" one person wrote. "Could not agree more!!!" said another.
The NCAA did not track coronavirus cases. But in a separate article outlining the most comprehensive public measure of the virus in public sports, the Times reported at least 6,629 cases in active collegiate athletic departments based on incomplete data from 130 universities.
While that figure is almost certainly low, none of the universities that provided data reported a single death related to the virus.