Thoughts of the Day: September 7, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Labor Day Monday morning:

It’s Labor Day Monday and in two weeks the Florida Gators begin game-week preparation for their season opener at Ole Miss. We don’t know whether wide receivers Justin Shorter or Jordan Pouncey will be eligible to play yet because Mark Emmert, whose very existence disproves Darwin’s theory that only the strong survive, has furloughed 600 of his 720-person NCAA staff, perhaps leaving Shorter, Pouncey and no telling how many others in college football dangling in the wind.

We shouldn’t be shocked that the NCAA has to impose some cost-cutting measures since the basketball tournament was cancelled back in March. Losing those hundreds of millions of dollars in television revenue had to hurt, but it does call into question why Emmert and his bureaucratic minions haven’t salted away enough money from past tournaments to cover an unforeseen disaster such as the one we’re living in right now. But even with the loss of all that tournament money and the need to conserve, why the necessity to furlough now? Couldn’t the furloughs wait until however many hundred transfer waivers are approved?

Considering JT Daniels announced he was transferring out of Southern Cal in May and was approved to play immediately at Georgia in mid-July, how tough can granting waivers be? Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovic transferred out in January and got approved back on August 4. Florida basketball transfer Collin Castleton announced he was leaving Michigan back in April. His waiver was approved a couple of weeks ago so Mike White will have him available whenever the basketball season begins. There are dozens of others who transferred out and got a quick decision from the NCAA.

So why haven’t waivers been approved for Shorter and Pouncey, who both applied in January? Why are Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood, who also applied back in January, and so many others still waiting? The NCAA is supposed to be for the athletes but the decision to go on furlough makes one understand that Brian Bosworth had it right when he wore the T-shirt that read “National Communists Against Athletes.”

Not only are there so many transfer waivers unsettled, the NCAA still hasn’t taken decisive measures regarding scholarship numbers. A decision was made back on August 21 to grant every athlete who participates in an NCAA sport this year an extra year of eligibility. That sounds good except they did that without addressing scholarship numbers for 2021 football. Do the numbers stay at 85? What happens if 20 seniors elect to come back for 2021? Does that wipe out a recruiting class? Or does the NCAA expand the scholarship numbers to include returning seniors and opt outs?

These things have to be decided pronto because football starts in the SEC in three weeks and that means kids are going to be making recruiting decisions? For example, if 10 Florida seniors elect to come back for another year would Dan Mullen have to adjust recruiting numbers accordingly to stay at the 85 limit? If it stays at 85 Mullen would either have to tell 10 recruits they can’t sign or else tell the 10 seniors they can’t come back.

All these unanswered questions further exacerbate the timing of the NCAA shutdown. If this is simply a money-saving issue then someone with a functioning brain should have stomped his foot to get Emmert’s attention long enough to convince him there are far better ways to do it than furloughing everyone. Since it’s a 720-employee organization, maybe stagger the furloughs so the NCAA stays open for critical business. Or, perhaps the NCAA is in really bad shape financially? Either way, fingers still point to Emmert for a colossal lack of leadership. At a time when decisive action is necessary, Mark Emmert has done an organizational imitation of Jamie Newman and opted out. He’s about four cents short of a nickel.

ANOTHER THEORY FROM THE GRASSY KNOLL: This new theory has to do with the timing of the NCAA to announce it’s giving a no-expenses paid vacation to 85 percent to its 720-person staff for the foreseeable future. It is a plot that involves Mark Emmert and takes great liberties in assuming Emmert could actually think of something like this without a tremendous amount of help but here goes:

Emmert made the decision with the sole intention of creating chaos. With so many questions that are going unanswered due to the NCAA furloughs, there will be rampant indecision regarding rules, scholarship limitations, etc. Further, there will be a greater need than ever before for the revenue distribution from the NCAA Basketball Tournament. In Emmert-think, everyone will come crawling back to the NCAA.

GRASSY KNOLL THEORY PART DEUX: This is in response to the first Grassy Knoll Theory of the Day. The Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences along with Conference USA, AAC and Sun Belt will emerge from the fall stronger than ever before and it will show in recruiting on the December early signing date. Rather than do a wait and see for the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC, kids will go with the sure thing. Additionally, the commissioners of the fall football conferences will be in position to dictate to both the NCAA and the leagues that opted out how things will be done in the future. The biggest loser of all will be the Big Ten and its rookie commissioner Kevin Warren. If he remains gainfully employed past the spring it will go down as the greatest upset since the Jets beat the Colts in 1968.

THE COST OF NOT DOING BUSINESS: At the University of Florida, which has set aside money for disasters like the pandemic, it is estimated something like $40-50 million will be lost playing an abbreviated conference-only 10-game schedule before a stadium that is at 20 percent capacity this fall. Fortunately, there will be SEC Network money coming in since the network will have sports to broadcast and there is a surplus from which funds can be drawn down. Not every school in the SEC has been as fiscally prudent as UF, but all will survive. There might be some serious belt tightening but all 14 schools will get through the year.

That can’t be said for everyone in the ACC, Big 12 or the three Group of Five leagues playing this fall although they will all have a far better shot at surviving than the conferences that whacked fall sports.

Now take a moment to ponder what’s going on at Nebraska where it is estimated the losses will total somewhere between $80 and $120 million. At Iowa five sports have been eliminated. Stanford has cut 11 sports. There will be more sports eliminated and you shouldn’t be the least bit shocked if some of the bottom feeders in Division I announce football has been eliminated altogether. How Division IAA and Division II survive is anybody’s guess.

Now before anyone thinks that the schools that are moving ahead with football in the fall are being stupid or greedy, consider this: Football is the engine that drives Division I sports. That’s sports with an S on the end. Take away football and thousands of young men and young women lose their scholarship.

Sure, it’s all about the money, but it’s not about greed.

SAVED BY THE OPT OUT: Since there will be no Pac-12 football in the fall it might take an oh-fer season for Clay Helton (Southern Cal), Chip Kelly (UCLA) and Kevin Sumlin (Arizona) to get canned. The Pac-12 is planning to play in the spring and firing a coach in April could set these schools back even further than keeping them on another season. Helton and Southern Cal might go 10-0 against a schedule that doesn’t include Alabama in game one and Notre Dame in the season-ender. UCLA was in bad financial shape even before the pandemic and it will be in even worse shape playing in the spring. Under normal circumstances firing Kelly might have seemed a pretty good idea if the Bruins lose more than they win. Thanks to the pandemic and losses that could exceed $100 million, Kelly will be coaching in 2021 unless he does an oh-fer. After an 0-7 finish to 2019, Sumlin figured to be as good as gone with a losing season but Zona’s finances aren’t all that much better than UCLA’s.

THE OPT OUT BY THE BIG TEN MIGHT SEND HARBAUGH BACK TO THE NO FUN LEAGUE: When last seen, Jim Harbaugh was busy protesting the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the fall football season along with parents of Michigan players. This is particularly interesting since Michigan president Mark Schlissel is said to have been one of the leaders in the vote by the league presidents to just say no to fall football. Harbaugh wants to play. Schlissel does not.

Asked if he’s had any discussions with Schlissel, Harbaugh said, “I’ve had none. I’ve texted and Warde Manuel (Michigan AD) has done all the conversations with President Schlissel. You think I maybe got some inside information or something but I don’t.”

That doesn’t sound like someone who’s particularly happy. Rather than deal with a school president, recruiting and stupid NCAA rules, Harbaugh might very well assess his situation at Michigan and decide he’s better off in the NFL.

FEELING PITHY: I got asked this weekend why the Big Ten expanded to include Rutgers and Maryland? The answer is simple: Homecoming opponents are hard to come by. Why do you think the SEC has never asked Vanderbilt to find a new place to play? It’s all about homecoming and because Vandy helps raise the league GPA … The College Football Playoff will go on as scheduled minus the Big Ten or Pac-12. In that it’s been since 2014 that a Big Ten team (Ohio State) won the national title and 2004 since the Pac-12 (Southern Cal) won one, I don’t think anyone will miss them. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if by sitting out the fall that a school like UCF got into the playoff and actually won a game? … Lou Brock died Sunday. He was 81years old. One of the dumber trades of all time in Major League Baseball occurred in 1964 when the Chicago Cubs traded Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals for sore-armed Ernie Broglio. In 103 games with the Cardinals, Brock hit .348, 12 homers and stole 33 bases to help the Cardinals to the World Series where they beat the New York Yankees in seven games. Brock made it to the Hall of Fame and finished his career with 938 stolen bases. Broglio went 3-12 with the Cubs.

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