Autumn is – by far – my favorite time of the year.
The cool, crisp air; the brilliant colors of the trees; I don’t even mind the sun going down earlier because it takes some of the guilt out of falling asleep on the couch at 7:30. Best of all, the onset of fall means that summer is finally behind us. I
love fall – I don’t mind winter and always look forward to spring - but I absolutely detest summer. There aren’t many people I know that are fond of humidity, mosquitoes and nonstop tornado watches.
However, the weather is only my second favorite thing about the fall.
My absolute favorite thing about the fall – and the reason I don’t mind being called a fall guy - is college football. I imagine I share that with practically everyone with a pulse in this part of the country. But this year is different: for reasons that will soon be clear, I just can’t get excited about college football – yes, even SEC college football - this year.
Ever since the coronavirus raged out of control in the spring, I’ve had the mindset that there would be no college football this season. It didn’t make sense back then, and it doesn’t make sense now.
The first conference to announce it would not play college football in 2020 – way back in July - was the Ivy League. (It’s worth noting the Ivy League was also the first conference to cancel its basketball tournament in March. They have some very wise people in the Ivy League.) But in other parts of the country, college football will still be played in the fall: the southeast, of course, is one of those parts.
Several other conferences followed the example of the Ivy League: the Big Ten, the Pac-12, the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference have already cancelled football their seasons (although I imagine the Pac-12 made their announcement just to remind everyone they still played football out west when there isn’t a pandemic).
At this time, there are approximately six-dozen colleges and universities planning on playing football in the fall; the teams in the SEC, ACC and Big 12 being the more prominent.
The SEC intends on playing a modified 10-game schedule – all against teams within the conference – that should prove to be as brutal as it will exciting. The season will kick off on September 26, culminating with a conference championship game on December 19 in Atlanta.
Each school is responsible for determining whether fans will be allowed to attend home games, and if so, how many will be allowed in the stadium and what the seating arrangements will be. They are also responsible for implementing any additional protocols required to be consistent with local, state and campus guidelines. In other words, they’ll be on their own.
Almost half of the colleges and universities have decided to forego football this season. Some of the more prominent players at the colleges and universities that will are playing football have decided to sit out the season over concerns for the virus. Several have opted to spend the time preparing for the NFL draft. (I wonder how that will affect their scholarship?)
A few of the teams ordinarily in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs – Ohio State and Penn State immediately come to mind – will be at home watching on Saturdays. They will be missed, even though they probably wouldn’t factor into a National Championship game anyway. That is, if one were actually being played, because this year they’re not.
But there will be – at least for the moment – a college football season in 2020. This fan will be watching, of course, but as brutal and exciting as I expect it to be, it just won’t be the same.
I’ve been a fall guy for a long, long time. I love my college football. I love it so much that after sitting in the stadium in Jacksonville in 2010 - when Florida beat Georgia in the only overtime game between the two schools in history – I wrote a letter to The Red & Black, the student newspaper at the University of Georgia, commending their fans for their behavior after the game.
In one of the most brutal, hard-fought games I’ve ever seen, fans from both schools left the stadium in virtual silence, seemingly out of mutual respect and admiration for the efforts they had just witnessed by their respective opponent.
To my surprise, the letter appeared in print: a letter written by a devout Florida Gator was actually printed in a publication in Athens, Georgia! (The negative comments from a few UGA students after reading the paper’s online version of my letter immediately brought me back to my senses, of course. THWG.)
(Sorry if I digressed, but I always wanted to tell that story.)
As the Southeastern Conference readies itself for a season that will require close physical contact for extended periods of time in the midst of a pandemic, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has decided that the proper precautions are in place for him to safely pull it off.
If things don’t turn out well, however, he’ll end up being the fall guy.
Only it won’t be for the same reason as me.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia. His latest book, “Southern Charm” is a collection of his first 101 columns for The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .