College football season update: What’s next amid Covid-19 crises
ATHENS — College football is back on edge with other sports’ Covid-19 related news and speculation over various schedule models and seating plans.
It’s no different at Georgia, where Bulldogs’ fans feel a heightened sense of emotions knowing Kirby Smart has stacked roster seemingly on the verge of a championship run.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey projected decisions would be made about the upcoming season in late July, and here we are.
Here’s what we know at this stage of what can only be described as a process, with collegiate sports looking to work through these difficult times and still considering several options.
Will they play ball?
As of now, the college football season is on, but all eyes are on how Major League Baseball handles news that broke Monday of a Covid-19 outbreak on the Miami Marlins.
The Monday night game between Miami and the Baltimore Orioles was postponed on account of the outbreak that involved at least 11 players and three coaches.
Philadelphia, which played Miami over the weekend, has also had its Monday night game against the New York Yankees postponed as the Phillies await results to learn if some of their players test positive.
It’s important to note that the Power 5 conferences became known as the “Autonomy 5” in 2014, when the NCAA Board of Directors voted (16-2) to give the Power 5 conferences more control and ability to create some of their own legislation.
So, while the NCAA Board of Governors meeting on Aug. 4 involving fall championships figures to carry some influence, it does not necessarily control what happens in the FBS ranks, and particularly not among the Power 5 conferences.
Sankey has said he would study other sports’ models, but not necessarily take his “cue” from them.
Other league commissioners expressed a similar sentiment on Monday.
Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby: “I think we’ve always realized and been advised that we will have disruptions during the season.”
AAC’s Mike Aresco: “It’s about risk reduction — not risk elimination. If we find that we can’t do it safely, then we won’t do it.” https://t.co/CONIiGVwKV
— Nicole Auerbach 😷 (@NicoleAuerbach) July 27, 2020
Sankey has said from the start his intent was to play a full season without changes to the schedule, but that seems less and less likely as schedule flexibility becomes more of a priority.
The Associated Press reported last Friday that the ACC is reportedly looking at an 11-game schedule that would include 10 league games and begin on Sept. 12. Notre Dame would be a part of that plan.
It would stand to reason the SEC is considering a similar model, along with the Big 12. Sankey said at the start of the Covid-19 sports layoff that the Power 5 schools would work toward making uniform decisions, though they wouldn’t necessarily be obligated.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity has shared that there are indeed several schedule models still being considered, and in the event of schedule model that would include one non-conference game the Bulldogs would look to continue their long-standing in-state game with Georgia Tech.
When would season start?
September 5 and Sept. 12 seem most likely, though it’s worth noting Oklahoma recently moved up its opening game with Missouri State to Aug. 29.
The ACC schedule model mentioned above featured Sept. 12 as the opening weekend for the season.
Sankey has seemed to favor solutions that involve as little as disruption as possible.
But if the SEC decides on a conference-only schedule model (plus one non-conference game), it would seem likely some game dates would need be moved to keep the league slate as uniform — and thus as flexible as possible.
Gary Stokan, organizer of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, has publicly discussed alternatives should Georgia and Florida State not be available for the previously scheduled opening weekend games.
That would seem to lend credence to the notion that the SEC is learning toward a schedule model that allows for only one non-conference games.
Will fans be in the stands?
Like everything else, that has yet to be officially decided and it’s likely the same rules and regulations won’t be in place everywhere.
A University of Texas official, for example, has said seating at home games would be reduced by 50 percent, meaning around 50,000 fans could attend.
Georgia, meanwhile, has been working on different attendance models of 0, 20 percent, 25 percent and 50 percent.
Sources have told DawgNation that any attendance model with fans in the stands will have provisions for players’ parents to be inside the stadium for games and skyboxes to be utilized.
The 50 percent model does not seem likely at the start of the season, at least, as most are working under the assumption it could be 20 or 25 percent, at best.
Georgia’s return to campus plan indicated that would not be any tailgating permitted.
Again, nothing has been finalized, and the sort of Covid-19 data affecting these sorts of decisions can and has changed quickly.
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