HUNTINGTON - Imagine Marshall and West Virginia squaring off in a 2020 football matchup.
Is it likely? Heck no. Absolutely not. Hasn't even been mentioned - well, not until now, at least, but not by anyone outside of a mind-wandering writer whose sleep schedule is admittedly about as off as his logic.
But 2020 has already been weird enough, so who's to say it couldn't happen?
Certainly not the NCAA - especially after last week's release of the "Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport."
While a Marshall-West Virginia matchup isn't likely, there could be some creative thinking in the works for both universities in terms of the 2020 season in the coming months, depending on how things proceed.
Essentially, the guidelines in which the NCAA opened the door for the return of collegiate sport leaned heavily on policies within the framework of an athletic department's university and state in which it is located.
"What we have to operate on is what the university and the state guidelines are," Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said. "The guidelines in the state of West Virginia are the law and we have to follow that."
That creates an interesting scenario for several conferences moving forward.
With several leagues being spread out due to recent realignment, the possibility remains that conferences will have some members in position to field a team and others who are not
It begs the question, 'What if teams are unable to fulfill a contractual obligation due to COVID-19 concerns? Does that open the pathway for opponents to reschedule with other programs?'
"I have no answer for that," Hamrick said. "I do not have an answer for that. That's such a far-out hypothetical that I don't know. It's not a bad question. I don't have a clue, though. We haven't gotten that far."
Hamrick's not wrong. It is a severe case of hypotheticals, which have become the new norm, thanks to COVID-19.
Here's what is known, though.
Normally, all contracts are insured for circumstances that do not allow play, such as global catastrophies.
It is not something unfamiliar to Marshall, either.
On Sept. 12, 2018, Marshall's road contest at South Carolina was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. The insurance policy associated with that contest covered the Herd's lost revenue involved in that contest.
Two months later, Hamrick scheduled a Dec. 1 meeting with Virginia Tech to make up for the lost game.
To be clear, Marshall did not make additional money for the Virginia Tech game. Instead, what Virginia Tech paid Marshall for the game was subtracted from the insurance payout on the $1.3 million guarantee for the South Carolina contest.
What Marshall did receive was some scheduling security for its future, gaining a future home-and-home series with the Hokies in the process. Since then, the two athletic departments have also scheduled a men's basketball game together, which is scheduled for the upcoming 2020-21 season.
It was a bad situation Hamrick turned into a positive for the Marshall athletic department moving forward.
Let's be real.
The impact of COVID-19 has hit the NCAA like a Category 5 hurricane, too, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars within its deadly path.
This is not just a Marshall issue or, potentially, a West Virginia issue, either.
This is going to be something that ever conference endures, which causes all to re-evaluate.
It was interesting that the NCAA's legislation on Friday did not address conferences - instead, deferring to states and universities.
Does that open the door for leagues to go by the wayside in 2020? On a professional level, MLB has toyed with models that are outside their normal league boundaries. It is feasible that the NCAA ranks do the same with regionalization.
One thing that could help conferences is keeping broadcast rights affiliated with conferences, so they wouldn't be left without benefit from such a notion.
One Conference USA official was not sure as to how things would proceed, echoing Hamrick's statement that it hasn't yet been discussed.
It may soon enough, though.
Especially for both of West Virginia's Division I programs, a keen eye will be kept on every possibility as the 2020 season draws closer and NCAA plans become more concrete.
As a state, West Virginia remains on the low end of active COVID-19 cases, which makes it feasible that both Marshall and West Virginia could be in position to field a team, if their respective universities sign off.
In a graphic released earlier this week, Gov. Jim Justice's office provided numbers that show only .07 percent of West Virginia's population has tested positive, which is a significantly lower than any of its bordering states.
Out of more than 56,000 tests from around the state, West Virginia has just 2.28 percent of tests returning positive - a percentage that has steadily declined recently.
The numbers of affected individuals recovering has increased while the numbers of positive tests have decreased.
Part of the NCAA stipulation is that states have a downward trend of COVID-19 cases for sustained periods as they advance through a three-phase process to restart athletics.
As part of the NCAA's plan for resocialization of sport, state and local authorities must have a plan in place for resocialization.
That has already begun with Justice's plan called "West Virginia Strong - The Comeback" which brings back business in phases.
Another aspect is a plan for the university to reconvene on campus, which also appears to be in the works.
On Wednesday, Marshall tentatively rescheduled its spring 2020 commencement ceremony for Aug. 8.
Chances are the university wouldn't move forward with a make-up commencement ceremony involving a large group on campus in August if it wasn't also planning to have in-person classes, as well.
Like everything else, the make-up ceremony plans are tentative, per release.
With many states starting to reopen, those plans - and those for fall semester - could become more clear in the near future.
Some states may end up seeing COVID-19 numbers spike again, which may delay their ability to return to on-site campus instruction and the ability to proceed with athletics.
Others may return to a certain amount of normalcy and be able to take the field again.
"Right now, there are no legitimate, reasonable answers to those questions," Hamrick said flatly.
The one truth in the matter is that NCAA programs need college football to be played in the 2020-21 school year, no matter when that is.
The lack of an NCAA men's basketball championship already put a significant financial strain on member schools by reducing the NCAA's allocated money by $375 million.
While safety is the most important aspect, it is no secret that financial viability is a not-so-distant second in terms of the future of collegiate sports.
If the 2020 season doesn't happen in some form - conference-affiliated or otherwise - there will be athletic departments that financially cannot survive the fallout.
With West Virginia University athletic director Shane Lyons serving as the chair of the Football Oversight Committee and Hamrick also a member of the group, they will be privy to developments as soon as anyone else within the NCAA.
Given the variables surrounding the 2020 year, both Hamrick and Lyons will take every piece of information that passes across their virtual screen and make contingency plans twice over for every possible scenario.
And if the two friends - distant relatives, too, according to Hamrick - can help each other along the way, then that possibility may not be passed over as it may in normal years.
After all, the 2020 year is one in which anything can happen.
That's been proven.