Santa Claus remains uncertain whether he will come down the 2020 chimney on December 24 as scheduled. He is considering a date in late January with his bagful of toys filled to no more than 20 percent capacity. He may decide not to arrive at all, the reindeer grounded and the cookies going stale by the fireplace.
What is more frustrating for many college football fans or, to be fair, for those who favor folding up the tents is that every time an answer seems imminent, there isn’t an answer.
The primary source of frustration around college football, or at least the three conferences that have made no final decision about the season, is the uncertainty. There was never a real “deadline” but people yearn for one anyway. Any answer, almost any answer, is better than being sent away to wait a few more days. The clock will ultimately hit zero, but the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 and the ACC are clearly going to let the game end while they still have timeouts in their pocket.
From the outside, it sounds like the delay is not so much about gathering an extra week of coronavirus data, which isn’t going to get any rosier, but a quest to find common ground among 14 presidents of 14 institutions with various external factors to consider. Some chief executives look at the possibility of having half their athletic department revenue erased — Alabama may be looking at losses approaching $75 million, based on a comparison with last year’s balance sheet and the return of Tide Pride funds to those who cannot get a ticket. Those presidents want to salvage what they can. Others feel that they can withstand the blow. Almost every school is at the mercy of its state government. When Ohio State sent a letter to its season ticket holders on Tuesday anticipating 20 percent capacity for this season’s already-shortened Big 10 schedule, Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine said even that level was not a certainty.
Things will soon be at critical mass. Players are supposed to begin actual practice next week and they deserve to know what, if anything, they are practicing for. So the wait goes on.
Never say never, I guess. The SEC does have regularly scheduled teleconferencing on Wednesday and an announcement is possible but unlikely.
The state of Alabama’s governmental approach has been, to put it mildly, laissez-faire to the extreme so far but UA and Auburn could also be looking at a mandate from Montgomery of 20 percent attendance or less. The decision on tailgating will come from Rose Administration, not the UA athletics department. Ohio State is shutting down all on-campus tailgating. It’s hard to imagine Alabama not doing the same, as there is no sense in of limiting the stadium capacity to 15,000 or so, only to cram 20,000 fans tightly onto The Quad.
Those institutional decisions will come cascading down pretty quickly as soon as the SEC says “this is what we are going to do,” maybe even before. The drafts have probably already been written. The suspense may not actually be killing anyone, as the cliche goes, but it certainly has people on the edge.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt