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Thinking out loud: What will football look like this fall?

John Rooke
July 17, 2020 - 9:44 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering what this pandemic has really cost the sports world…

  • I really, really, really hate to say this.  But I hafta.

 

  • “Normal” football is doomed for this fall.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  Just sayin’.

 

  • We’re in the middle of a timeframe in which the sport could be saved and managed or dumped and potentially harmed for some time to come. 

 

  • And we’re watching conferences and schools dump football like a hot potato.  The Colonial Athletic Association – of which URI, UNH, Maine and Villanova are members, has suspended football for the fall.  The CAA commissioner is Joe D’Antonio, former Providence assistant AD and Big East associate commissioner for compliance…

 

  • …who knows his football.  Huge Dallas Cowboys’ fan.  A former regular caller to our old shows on Providence radio.  Anyone remember a caller named Joey D?

 

  • Each of the member schools has the option of playing as an independent, which some may pursue.  But Rhode Island will not.  The possibility of a spring season will be evaluated.

 

  • Just a few short weeks ago, the college power brokers were talking about managing down-sized crowds.  With the rate of infection blowing through the South right now, who in their right mind wants to cavort in the middle of a human petri dish…unless you have a death wish?

 

  • Yes, the Ivy League first pulled the plug on the sport – as they did in basketball – under the guise of “safety.”  And others have followed, including the Patriot League (Holy Cross) cancelling all fall sports along with several additional smaller conferences and schools. 

 

  • Junior college football also shut down for this fall, over the entire country.  They may play a shortened schedule in the spring, but undoubtedly there will be difficulty for many prospects trying to land scholarships in 2021.

 

  • I don’t doubt their sincerity in attempting to provide a modicum of protection for their student athletes…who all have minds and lives of their own.  For smaller schools in the real world, the financial responsibility for providing safe space to their students and athletes is overwhelming. 

 

  • But the Ivies aren’t the real world in college-land.  Nor do they depend (as much) on the financial ramifications of a shut down.  They also are not in-tune with the majority of their student bodies – especially at Harvard – who still want to be on campus.

 

  • The Ivies just don’t want to put up with any of it.  Those signs are as apparent today as the “Covid-19” electronic signs on our highways.

 

  • This isn’t an assignment of ‘fault.’  It’s just the way it is.

 

  • The Ivies also don’t have an entire culture and region of the country clamoring for the continuation of a sport up against potentially dire consequences from this virus, like we presently have in the South and within the sport’s major power-brokers…the SEC, the Big 12, the ACC, Big 10 and Pac-12.

 

  • It isn’t an enviable position for any administrator to be in.  But simply shutting things down also looks like turning your back on a problem and ignoring it.

 

  • It’s a helluva conundrum.  Alternatives always need to exist if you’re in business.  For every ‘Plan A,’ there should always be a ‘B’ and a ‘C’ to follow, or you’re just not leading.  In effect, you’re deflecting responsibility.

 

  • The trouble here is alternative plans also often create additional problems and difficulties.  They make more of a mess and often create more problems themselves.  Plus, part of any viable alternative plan here must also rest on the shoulders of a fan base that continues to spread and worsen this virus – because of their stubbornness, stupidity, and/or overall sense of political entitlement.

 

  • We are all in this, together.  You’ve heard that one before, ad nauseum.  Correct?

 

  • Politicizing this virus is simply one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done.  But…stupid is as stupid does.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but you do have the right to not wear a mask.  You also have the right to get sick and die if that is your wish. 

 

  • What you don’t have the right to do is cause others to get sick, which is where we have a major problem…and largely why the world has closed its’ borders to Americans.  #getaclue

 

  • And because of everything these ears have heard, and all that these eyes have read and seen…the easiest way out is what has transpired.  Even though the NCAA has issued a new set of protocols for schools to follow, in an effort to play…

 

  • …it’s still caving in around us.  They’re all in punt formation.  It’s becoming more evident every day – the game, for now, is ending.  Because we all fumbled the ball.  One turnover led to another, and another…

 

  • Others will surely follow.  The Big 10 and Pac-12 have already cut back to conference games only, and the ACC may soon follow so, if only for some flexibility in the scheduling if cases flare up.  That is, if the season starts at all. 

 

  • The SEC is exploring a 10-game slate with two non-league games.  Maybe they’ll push to the spring?  SEC administrators met this week, and reported their communities and athletes were strongly in favor of playing.  Athletes may opt out this year and have their scholarships honored.

 

  • Or, maybe they’ll blow everything up.  Whatever moves are made, it sure looks like the high-and-mighty college power brokers have given in…

 

  • …to a tiny, microscopic, ever-mutating virus.  It has beaten them all.  We can put a man on the moon and may do so again someday soon.  But we can’t beat back this booger.

 

  • Coronavirus 1, College Football 0. 

 

  • 2020 is already in the history books for several reasons.  But I still hope I’m wrong about football.  I hope I’m wrong about us.  College basketball is next on the schedule.

 

  • At least Navy is insisting they’ll play Army in football this year.  So we’ll have that.  Maybe.

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @Brett_McMurphy, quoting Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick: “If the current trend lines continue, as negative as they’ve been the past few weeks, America is not going to return to normal. College football is just going to be a victim of that.”

 

  • Pro football, however, may be a different story. 

 

  • While athletes can’t live in a ‘bubble’ like the NBA, NHL and MLS are trying to do, at present you have anywhere from 53 to 90 athletes able at least to confine themselves to their homes and practice facilities – not exposed to the whims of a college campus with thousands of students.

 

  • Owners met Friday to discuss training camps, player pay and safety protocols.  The urgent concern, from owners and players, centers on the surge of coronavirus cases through the South with training camps supposedly opening July 28th.

 

  • Two sticking points – the league wants to classify the virus as a ‘non-football injury,’ which means the teams would NOT be required to pay sick players.

 

  • And, Oakley has collaborated with doctors and engineers from the NFL and NFLPA to develop a mouth shield for helmets, just like the visors already in use.  It is designed to not allow the direct transmission of coronavirus on a field through ‘droplets’ being exchanged.

 

  • Will these visors come with windshield wipers?  Inquiring minds need to know.  The players want to know if they can opt out of wearing them.

 

  • The Patriots announced this week a plan to play to reduced capacity at Gillette Stadium, about 20% (13,000 fans) of capacity.  That is, if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts approves.  Jury’s out on that one.

 

  • The Philadelphia Eagles are planning to go fan-less.  All large public events are cancelled in the city through February of 2021 – which undoubtedly will also hinder Villanova’s college basketball schedule and season.

 

  • TB12 and Gronk’s new Tampa home stadium received $10.4 million in federal aid to modify Raymond James Stadium so they may accommodate “some” fans.  TBD…as Super Bowl 55 is also scheduled for RayJay next February.

 

  • Pro football teams can also increase their revenue, unlike college teams bound by campus territories and neighborhoods, by investing in infrastructure and real estate.  Hotels, apartments, and retail complexes (Patriot Place, hello!) are being planned and developed with mixed-use facilities in mind.

 

  • The ability for professional teams to create additional revenue streams to get them through this pandemic is key.  And vital.

 

  • Like through e-commerce.  Online shopping, since March 1, has increased and ticket sales are up by 147% sez data insight company Stellaralgo. 

 

  • Or, they could embrace CBD.  Like MLS will likely do, approving it as a commercial opportunity by the end of this year.  That would probably please Gronk, wouldn’t it?

 

  • If you didn’t like Cam Newton before he was signed by New England, do you like him now?

 

  • Or are you just not that interested in winning anymore?

 

  • If there was ever an athlete with something to prove, it is Newton.  If there was ever an athlete with a chip on his shoulder, it is Newton.  If there was ever an opportunity to prove everyone on God’s green earth (and 31 other NFL teams) that they were wrong…it is Newton.

 

  • And New England is the benefactor.  I can understand why some teams, and their fans, suffer from inferiority complexes.

 

  • Because they are, well, inferior.  Proof is in the pudding, or at least, the record.

 

  • Especially in the foresight department. The Patriots have plenty of it and have proven over two decades how to use it to the utmost of their ability. 

 

  • But Newton still has to go out and play – if we have a season.  Rookestradamus isn’t betting against him, or the season.  And neither am I.

 

  • The Patriots’ rescue from the salary cap cliff is a huge windfall.  Getting favorable decisions on BOTH Aaron Hernandez and Antonio Brown cap grievances, after the previous spankings applied by the league, is nothing short of miraculous.

 

  • What they do with this windfall, is another matter.  But the rest of the NFL should be very afraid.

 

  • So should the Kansas City Chiefs, the next-anointed dynasty.  Nothing has ever been won on paper, at least not yet.  But on paper, the Patriots haven’t given theirs up – yet.

 

  • I wouldn’t worry too much about Joe Thuney not getting a contract extension this week, and his playing on the franchise tag.  This has been part of the plan all along. 

 

  • In the first week of the NBA bubble, there were 322 players tested for Covid-19 and only two positive results.  But some players are complaining – loudly and through social media – about the quality of their food. 

 

  • Fellas?  You’ve heard this theme when it was wrongly used.  But here, comparatively speaking – it is appropriate.  Just shut up and eat what’s in front of you, like your mom once told you.

 

  • The Big East announced Thursday they will not have non-conference games for any of their six fall sports due to the continued coronavirus presence.  Men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and field hockey are affected. 

 

  • Plans for the 2020-21 winter and spring sports – including basketball – are not affected.  Yet.

 

  • The Basketball Tournament (TBT) held in Columbus, Ohio was won by a team of former Marquette stars – the Golden Eagles – for $1 million.  Four teams out of the original 24 squads made up of former collegians and pros were replaced before the 10-day event started, because of Covid concerns. 

 

  • If you’re in need of a Friar fix, suggest you tune in Jon Rothstein’s podcast (College Hoops Today) this week with his guest, Providence coach Ed Cooley.  Some good news on incoming transfers Jared Bynum and Noah Horchler, in particular, being ready to roll.

 

  • As we said here a few weeks back, Syracuse transfer and ex-St. Andrews star Brycen Goodine has applied for and hopes to receive a waiver to play next season.  LaSalle transfer Ed Croswell had intended to sit out but may re-think his decision as the Friars are still hoping for front court help.

 

  • Manhattan grad transfer and 6-8 all-MAAC forward Pauly Paulicap has decided on DePaul, joining four other transfers for the Blue Demons next season.

 

  • Former Brown basketball coach Craig Robinson was this week named to the post of Executive Director for the National Association of Basketball Coaches.  The move furthers New England’s (and Rhode Island’s) influence on the sport – especially with former Friar coach and Bryant AD Dan Gavitt at the NCAA.

 

  • It isn’t going well for Zion Williamson, which means it may not be going well for Duke very soon. A court affidavit filed last week in the battle between Williamson and his former agent alleges he received $400K to attend Duke.

 

  • But the Canadian marketing rep who allegedly gave the money to Williamson’s stepfather – while Zion was in school – says he was conned by someone acting like they were in the players’ inner circle.  Uh huh.  Right.  Stay tuned.

 

  • PC’s hockey Friars have already had a change to their schedule for next season, with the postponement of the 2020 Ice Breaker Tournament at Minnesota-Duluth.  There will also be a PC hockey virtual Town Hall Tuesday at 4pm ET.

 

  • One time Auburn, Cincinnati and Texas Tech head football coach Tommy Tuberville this week won a Republican senate seat primary over former Senator Jeff Sessions in Alabama. 

 

  • One thing is certain – Tuberville was a good coach, but he will win thousands more votes in November than he ever won football games.  Largely because those fans/voters will remember he won those games in the first place.

 

  • Whether we have a season or not, ex-Hendricken star and current Michigan Wolverine DE Kwity Paye was named to the preseason Bednarik Watch list.  The Bednarik Award, named for former college and pro star Chuck Bednarik, is presented annually by the Maxwell Football Club to the nation’s top defensive player.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @GlobeChadFinn: “Really amazing how thin the Red Sox are on starting pitching. Dana Kiecker could be the No. 2 starter and he’s 59 years old.”

 

  • Zach Godley?  In a normal year, he wouldn’t even be on the ‘taxi squad’ as baseball finally arrives at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, for the last time.  This year?  He’s maybe the #3 starter.

 

  • 11 MLB umpires have said ‘we’re out,’ and won’t take part in the upcoming 60-game season.  Can’t decide if that’s a good thing, or bad.  Really.

 

  • The human eating machine otherwise known as Joey Chestnut won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest on July 4th for a record 13th time – 75 dogs and buns downed in 10 minutes.

 

  • Seven-and-a-half per minute?  Never wanted eating a hot dog to become a chore, which I imagine it is for Mr. Chestnut.  Or to become gross, which it probably has also been for Mr. Chestnut.

 

  • Love me three or four Coney Island System dogs, all the way (mustard + meat sauce + onions + celery salt), but that’s about my limit.  Did six in one sitting, once.  Cheese fries killed any shot of eating more than six. 

 

  • Olneyville NY System Hot Weiners should do their own contest.  Hey!  It’s sports!

 

  • Old friend and former radio producer/PC engineer Mikey C. used to bring in a dozen of those gaggers at a time.  And scarf them all in seconds, if not minutes.  Chestnut ate 12 in the first minute this year – I think Mikey could hang with that.

 

  • Is a competitive eater an athlete, or no?  I’ll take “or no.”  But I’ll wager they have a hunger like few others do.

 

  • The next item in short supply because of the pandemic?  Besides the paper towels I still cannot find?  Aluminum cans.  People are drinking more beer and soda at home.  Three new factories are ramping up to meet demand.

 

  • I survived the Twitter hack this week.  Still have the ‘blue check.’  Am I still in the club?

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez he doesn’t tweet much, but told me this week the most cutting thing you can say to someone on Twitter is ‘who’s this clown?’  First, it implies they’re a clown, and then, not even one of the better-known clowns.

 

  • The games have been gone from the schedule since March, until the recent re-starts by golf and soccer.  It has meant no fans, no TV, no revenue…which equates to losses of $6 billion and 116 million fans in both professional and collegiate worlds at the start of this past week.

 

  • Not to mention the loss of life.  But those are the collective sports losses over the past four months and counting, and those numbers are only going to grow.  It should be very clear – even to the knuckleheads on the beach, or in large groups, some in the hospitals…in public – period. 

 

  • #maskup or #nosports

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.