Vice President Mike Pence held a conference call with the College Football Playoff management committee on Wednesday afternoon, adding college athletics to the sports that have been in touch with high-ranking Washington officials amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The tone the call took was much different than President Donald Trump’s phone call with the commissioners of major professional sports, when he reportedly told them that the NFL season should start on time.
The major themes from the call with the 10 major college commissioners, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick and CFP executive director Bill Hancock were Pence engaging with college football’s key constituents and listening to them explain the landscape.
“He is a good listener,” Hancock said. “I think he was glad to hear our thoughts. He was gracious and thoughtful.”
Essentially, the biggest news from the call with the vice president was that there was actually a call with the vice president. When Trump reached out to the professional sports commissioners earlier this month, there was no collegiate representative. The commissioners have much more sway over college football than anyone at the NCAA.
As the former governor of Indiana, Pence has a familiarity with the importance of collegiate sports in the American landscape. He expressed that in the call.
“I am grateful to the vice president for taking the time to talk to us,” Hancock said. “It shows that the White House understands how significant college athletics is to folks in this country.”
The folks on the call got an email within the last week asking them to participate. Pence didn’t have any specific news for them, nor did he want anything more than general information. Pence was well-prepared, as he noted the participants by name and thanked them for the hard decisions they’d already made. The call lasted approximately 35 minutes.
Perhaps the most significant thing that was expressed to Pence is some of the nuances that will make the return of college sports different than the return of professional sports.
“The management committee members explained how college sports is different from pro sports,” Hancock said. “For example, college [sports] can’t resume until students are back in class.”
There were no dates or declarations on the call, which was characterized as generally positive and information gathering in nature.
“No one knows what the future holds,” Hancock said. “Obviously, everyone needs to work together. As you might expect, the vice president talked about getting the country back on its feet as soon as possible. He recognizes the need to protect the safety of the athletes.
“We are planning for a CFP this year, and I was glad to know that Mr. Pence understands how important college football is.”
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