Syracuse will play in front of zero home fans if there is a football season, according to New York state officials.
Texas officials, meanwhile, are still talking about playing football in terms of playing in half-full stadiums, which sounds gloomy but means 50,000 or so fans if you are talking about a stadium like Texas A&M. The Indianapolis 500 announced that it would be at 25 percent capacity, all required to wear masks. The sprawling speedway isn’t directly comparable to a football stadium but it is big and it is outdoors and even one-quarter of the usual crowd on Race Day would be 87,500 or so in attendance on August 23.
So the hierarchy of uncertainty for Alabama football is now:
First, will UA play?
Second, if UA does play, how many games will there be, and which teams will be the opponents?
Third, if there are games in Tuscaloosa, will anyone be on hand to watch? No one is pushing a “100 percent narrative.” Alabama officials talked about a goal of 50 percent capacity earlier, but that was in a more hopeful time in the distant past or, as we like to call it, May.
Will there be some version of a band playing in the stands? That’s hard to imagine. Will the Quad be packed with the usual tailgating crowd, including some who can’t get into the stadium? Again, it’s hard to imagine that the University would approve dropping thousands of visitors into the middle of its campus when safety measures for the student population will be a daily challenge in the fall.
These questions have been asked. Reporters aren’t spending their pandemic days in silent contemplation. There may not be jobs in journalism for much longer, but rest assured, the market for well-paid philosophers disappeared long ago. My 23-part series on what the great savants would do in this situation has bogged down as Nietzsche and Confucius cannot agree on expanding the playoffs
Further questions are on hold until the SEC Presidents — who will ultimately make the decision for the league, on Greg Sankey’s recommendation — work out the first point: how many games will there be, ranging from zero (an economic catastrophe) to 12?
The crowd-or-no-crowd decision is part of the economic equation, particularly in scheduling decisions. Schools, especially in the Power 5, can rely on television revenue if they can deliver the product, although less games would likely mean a negotiated agreement on a prorated payday. Ticket sale losses would sting. It seems fair to assume that there is a game of “chicken” going on between SEC teams (for instance) and the Group of Five teams that constitute part of the non-conference schedule for all league teams. In other words, if the SEC announces on July 30 that it is going to a conference-only schedule, then Georgia State, Kent and UT-Martin are going to expect some compensation. (There will be lawyers.) If the Sun Belt or the MAC cancels its season first, their contracts will be void. That’s why it’s easy to argue that Alabama or Auburn should add in-state teams in 2020 but is much harder to do in reality. Would those in-state teams be willing to play for no guarantee? Could they afford to do so? If such games are desirable — and perhaps they are — 2020 might not be the best year for them, as opposed to just scheduling them in a more normal time.
That’s assuming that when there is a “normal” again, we will even be able to recognize it.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt