Where I live college football, specifically the SEC, is taken about as seriously as a heart attack. The SEC Championship is standing-room-only at our favorite sports bar. And the ribbing that goes along with the weekly games is the price of admission. Brad Paisley probably expressed it best:
It appears we will not be disappointed this year. The SEC announced schools may begin voluntary workouts:
The Southeastern Conference took a step toward resuming college sports with a critical vote that will reopen training facilities.
Schools will be able to bring football and basketball players back to campus for voluntary activities starting June 8 at the discretion of each university.
The SEC’s announcement Friday is the latest sign that a college football season will be launched in some form this fall.
As a television viewer, this is fine. Given that the last time I gazed up at ESPN 2 it was broadcasting marble races, college football — even without an audience in the stadium — will be a huge improvement.
This is also wonderful news for the players. Many of them have worked extremely hard to get scholarships to the top-line programs. If they were not going to play, their education would be up in the air. Starting SEC players also have a decent shot at an NFL career. Getting back on the field expands their opportunity.
The NCAA decision provided guidance and a focus on safety.
University of Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity told Channel 2′s Alison Mastrangelo the focus is on the well being of students.
“The NCAA decision provided a brighter light at the end of the tunnel. I know our young people are anxious to get started, our coaches are anxious to get started. So we want to move forward but we want to move forward a right way and a safe way to be sure that the parents of our student athletes know that they’ll be in great care when they’re on our campus,” McGarity said.
I’m ecstatic that my own Georgia Bulldogs are getting back to work:
We've all made it through the last couple months because of our composure and discipline.
On June 8th, physicality returns to our facilities, while still adhering to top safety guidelines.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) May 22, 2020
I expected no less from Head Coach Kirby Smart who said in a statement:
“We’re excited to now know when players can begin returning to campus… I’m sure they are looking forward to returning and begin working toward what we hope is a regular season in the Fall.”
It doesn’t even have to be completely regular. I’ll be thrilled if it’s just the SEC playing each other. At least some West Coast teams are in doubt. The California State University system is canceling most in-person classes for the fall semester:
California State University, the nation’s largest four-year college system, plans to cancel most in-person classes in the fall and instead offer instruction primarily online, Chancellor Timothy White announced Tuesday.
The vast majority of classes across the 23-campus Cal State system will be taught online, White said, with some limited exceptions that allow for in-person activity.
I’m thinking contact sports are not in the cards. However, a significant portion of the Big 12 is in some stage of reopening at the state level. That conference has also announced plans for campus reopening. Student-athletes in those schools will be able to return starting June 12. The ACC has also posted a fall schedule and put together a medical advisory board.
Even if the season is abbreviated, the return of SEC college football will signal the return to something approximating normal in my neck of the woods. For those of us who routinely watch on television and in groups of fans, it will provide a needed respite from pandemic paranoia.
These announcements are excellent news for the student-athletes and their loyal fans. Let’s hope it is just the beginning of even more good news on getting back to something approximating living rather than existing. It’s time.