CECIL HURT: Three weeks until kickoff but blame game is well under way
With SEC football less than three weeks away and teams already playing around the country, a season for Alabama seems inevitable. The actual games with some recognizable names were like the first rolling snowballs from the mountaintop and when you see those, you know the avalanche will not be far behind.
Again, that doesn’t mean the Munchkins need to start singing about the Wicked Witch being dead just yet. She isn’t. Coronavirus numbers are still high and receding slowly in many places, especially in college towns like Tuscaloosa, Athens, Auburn, Columbia, S.C., and others. Some people respond "where are the fatalities?" among students, and those numbers are, predictably and thankfully, minuscule. But death rate isn’t the only criteria by which decisions about athletics will be made, nor has anyone ever said it would be.
Facts are facts. Given the current criteria for playing, it would have been difficult for either Auburn (which dealt with scrimmage-cancelling COVID-19 positives and quarantines all week) or Tennessee (which had 44 players out on Saturday due to six or seven positive tests, the related quarantines and general injury issues) to play an opening game if the SEC had commenced on Sept. 5. Credit the league’s patience for building in three extra weeks, but whether things improve or not, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 remain committed to the “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"approach.
Of course, sometimes the torpedoes are duds. On Thursday, a Penn State team orthopedic doctor caused a national uproar by claiming that 35 percent of that’s league coronavirus positives had the heart condition myocarditis. I am going to cut some slack here on one front: this wasn’t some orchestrated Big Ten grandstanding designed to exonerate its premature punting of the season. This was a doctor talking to some local school officials in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, think about this. This is a university medical official citing statistics based on no MRI testing, no reliable studies, just anecdotal “evidence” that was three weeks old. Why wasn’t he updated? Why wasn’t he following the trends at other schools, or the NBA or the NFL, where no extraordinary myocarditis cases have been reported? What kind of advice is the Penn State chancellor getting from this guy?
Almost simultaneously – the Big Ten circus has more than one ring – there were all sorts of rumors about when that league, or the PAC-12, might resume play. If it were early enough, some people mused, then those leagues might get back into the College Football Playoff picture (and, not coincidentally, the CFP television money). That’s a noble goal in a way, but guess who had a chance to discuss all this with the SEC, ACC and Big 12 a month ago and was too arrogant to do so? That’s right: the Big Ten. And while a bad downturn might still make the early decision to cancel seem prudent, it is starting to sound like the Big Ten itself isn’t so 100 percent certain about that.
I don’t always agree with Dabo Swinney, the Clemson coach and someone I’ve known for many years, on every issue. But on the prospect of delaying the season yet again to accommodate those league who chose to act unilaterally, I see his point.
“No,” he said on Friday. “We’re ready to roll.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at Cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt