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College Football’s Big Conference Hurdle

We start with the news that at least two of the Power Five college football conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — will limit their schedules to conference-only games because of the coronavirus. It’s a move that has wide-reaching implications, from the possibility that the College Football Playoff will need to choose among five or six unbeaten teams for its four spots to the very real financial implications for smaller schools that rely on nonconference matches with, say, Alabama or Oregon to keep their athletic programs afloat. In a lot of ways, the decentralized, semi-regional nature of college sports mirrors the federal coronavirus response in the U.S. as a whole; certainly the football season would already have been canceled if it weren’t such a huge moneymaker for colleges. We’re not sure about all that might happen if there are no nonconference games this year, but the possibility that Notre Dame will finally have to join a conference is at least fun to think about.

Next, we talk about what it means that Manchester City won its appeal in the international Court of Arbitration for Sport, with its two-year ban on European competition now overturned. While the ruling came more or less on a technicality, and Man City has certainly not been exonerated for cooking its own books, the team can now pretty much do what it wants, and UEFA may not have a leg to stand on for enforcing Financial Fair Play. But is that such a bad thing? FFP’s rules about how clubs can use their revenue aren’t at all straightforward, and they certainly don’t level the playing field the way that salary caps do in the U.S. Since European football seems unlikely to embrace a salary cap model any time soon, maybe what small and mid-tier teams need are more billionaire owners ready to spend unbelievable sums of their own money, not less. Southampton is waiting for you, Bill Gates.

Finally, Neil lays out the history of teams that have changed their names for one reason or another. While it seems rare these days, it’s actually been a very normal part of sports — and there are a ton of wild old team names the Washington football team could take some inspiration from while picking out a new one. Looking at you, Nebraska Old Gold Knights-Antelopes-Bugeaters-Rattlesnake Boys-Cornhuskers.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.