Updated: Aug 14, 2020
"Barring our inability to stem the Covid-19 surge in the next 30 days – at least to within a manageable number – I think this can become a spectacular opportunity for the teams that chose to stay and play. If there’s a season played, they’re never gonna catch the SEC again."
Our problem is that nobody seems capable of making a decision that resonates with us all. That’s because the sport is leaderless and fragmented by state and region. One size does not fit all – it doesn’t even fit every state, let alone conference. So right now we have 3/5ths left of the Power Fives. Where do we go from here? Well, think SEC!
I think I see one possible path. Let’s not get distracted, however. Here’s why I’m a little bit optimistic (Thank you for hanging in there Commissioner Greg Sankey): Barring our inability to stem the Covid-19 in the next 30 days – at least to a manageable number – I think this can become a spectacular opportunity for the teams that chose to stay and play. If there’s a season played, they’re never gonna catch the SEC again.
Like I’ve said all along, the SEC is the only conference capable of becoming a stand-alone partner with a TV network. If the ACC and Big 12 want to come along, great. Better yet, they could merge to form part of the New SuperConference. Forget the NCAA. Imagine a new league with teams like Texas, Oklahoma, Clemson and Notre Dame joining up with the SEC.
Otherwise, I don’t even know where to begin today, because none of us knows where, how or when to begin anything, including football season – should there be one. Lately it has been more like a survival course, or a serious, hyper-competitive Demolition Derby/Musical Chairs where nobody knows the rules – and if they did it wouldn’t matter because they change almost by the hour.
The carnage of college football has left me confused, conflicted and contentious. What to do? How in the hell can we make the right choice on whether to play college football when some places can’t even agree on whether to wear a mask? We want the players’ physical health to be considered first, but right behind it their MENTAL health.
It would be nice to follow a visionary if we had one. At the very least we have a vision from SEC Commissioner Sankey for a flicker of hope. May we keep The Dream alive.
(Note: Is that Greg Sankey we see out there on the ledge?)
And I promise to stay on the high ground, so right now let me stiff-arm all of the wedge-busting, cheap-shotting naysayers who accuse us of sweeping the health risks under rug and get right to the matter: NO POLITICS PLAYED HERE!
It’s about the physical and mental state of the players and coaches, but also the future of the game. This Covid-19 could not only knock us out of the fall, but the spring as well – and maybe longer. The conference with the most to lose? The SEC. No wonder Sankey wisely delayed the opening to Sept. 26. Wait a while. And if needed, it can be pushed even later.
How much safer are the players who remain in the program than those who would be forced to return to their homes? There is already an outcry of many parents who want their sons to remain in their football environment because it’s safer than anywhere else.
Some doctors are pointing out that there is a much lower infection rate for athletes than elsewhere. As Florida Gators Team Physician Emeritus Dr. Pete Indelicato says: “There is no way you’re going to play without the virus anytime soon. So you must determine what’s an acceptable rate for your program.”
Two critical health questions: 1. How susceptible will players be to the dangerous life-threatening myocarditis (heart inflammation) that has reportedly already impacted a reported 10 Big Ten players? 2. Since there is no guarantee how long this Covid-19 will impact college football and other sports, how do you know the infection rate won’t be worse next year?
As Nick Saban pointed out the other day, his football “semi bubble” has only a 2 percent infection rate. Why leave Tuscaloosa?
It is also about the future of the game. The packaging of TV for our living rooms/dens/man-caves is critical as we transition them into our new “stadium experience” and they could become a possible pandemic panacea for those of us who need the dopamine to get us through the fall. Don’t talk to me about spring ball right now, I need my rites of autumn first. And if not, then if there should be no Thanksgiving, I can wait for Plan B at Christmas.
The newest heroes on campus will be the doctors, nurses and health care workers. However, there is no empirical evidence on which way we can lean.
“So many things have changed in the last four or five months,” said Dr. Pete Indelicato, Florida Team Physician Emeritus. “There’s lots of things we didn’t know and 18 different ways of interpreting what we do know. It’s like looking at the world through rose-colored glasses ... but with 18 different tints.”
Dr. Indelicato subscribes to the idea that with proper mitigation, a relatively safe environment could be created that could be safer than where the players would encounter elsewhere. “A semi-bubble,” he said. He wasn’t speaking for Scott Stricklin or Dan Mullen or President Ken Fuchs. Just an opinion. It’s just a hunch with no science to back it up.
There are still too many medical unknowns, however, including the one introduced by the Big Ten recently: An inflamed heart. According to the AP: Dr. Colleen Kraft, another top NCAA medical advisor, on her concerns with myocarditis: “I think we’re playing with fire. One case or myocarditis in an athlete is too many.”
When asked about myocarditis, Dr. Indelicato said, “I really don’t know enough about it.”
So I’m rooting for fall football, better health, the new vaccine and just a little bit of joy.
Incidentally, for those who read down this far and still think I have an agenda that chooses football over the health, my wife and I just began our sixth month of semi-quarantine, have hardly even left the house or had family and friends over, but will be making a decision soon as to when to stick our heads out like Punxsutawney Phil to decide if we are going to have five more months of isolation. We could use a little joy around here. C’mon football!