The Back Nine: A February start for college football?

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The Back Nine comes at you while trying to figure out what is more numbing — that we have been through more than a month of this since I flew to Nashville for the SEC Tournament or that we have so far to go.
10. There was a moment this weekend where someone who knows what he is talking about (Dr. Anthony Fauci) was saying that we might be back to some semblance of normalcy in November (in honor of my birthday, I assume). And that made me feel better until I realized that it is almost seven months from now. And that made me sad. And then Chris Fowler, whose opinion I respect a lot, did an Instagram post where he talked about his “informed speculation” that we probably are looking at the start of college football in February. Which I can certainly see happening. I have three questions that nobody can answer:
• How many stars of college football would turn down the idea of playing and just get ready for the NFL draft?
• What would happen with high school seniors in terms of an early signing period and if they enrolled early? Could they play in February?
• Would the following season start on schedule in September with a short break for the players?
Wait, I have more. Would there be bowl games in Florida in May and June because I want to buy stock in sunblock and bottled water if there is? Anyway, we’ll see. I believe we might see the NFL in the fall and the league could play more Saturday games because there is no college football. As Fowler pointed out in his video, college football is way more complicated to restart than the NFL or any pro leagues.
11. Let’s see, how long has it been since a head football coach stuck his foot in his mouth about the resumption of the college football season? Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State made some idiotic remarks last week and his apology was basically another example of him being tone deaf. He didn’t apologize for basically referring to football players as expendable employees (man, they were cringing at the NCAA), he apologized if you were offended by anything he said, which is the classic apology-non-apology. And then he took his mullet out for a walk. I apologize if Coach Gundy is offended by that.
12. So while we wait for Dan Mullen and Mike White each to do a conference call with the media (we know they grasp the technology since they did a Zoom with each other that included movie selections and home school stories), we are left to speculate about what we might see in the fall/winter/spring. The thing I keep wondering about is what the game will look like. If we have a shortened season, will coaches be more aggressive in play-calling? With the training reduced and players left idle for such a long time, how big a deal will injuries be? Are teams going to be really sloppy early? Even if fans are allowed to come to games at some point, you can’t expect full stadiums so how much is home-field advantage negated? But the biggest question to me involves how much are fans going to be asked to pay? You have to think there will be a reduction in ticket prices and booster contributions for premium seats because of the economic situation in this country. There may even be Group of 5 and FCS programs going to suffer without the big paydays from the FBS teams. These are not important questions considering what we are currently dealing with. But they will eventually need to be answered.
13. The NCAA will have a bunch of votes this spring about the possibility — and likelihood — that players in the sports that require them to sit out a year will no longer have to do that. By the end of May, we should know and there are a lot of people waiting for a mad rush to the door as if it were Black Friday. Look, there are already 746 players on the basketball transfer portal and a majority of them probably did so assuming they won’t have to sit out because of the pressure on the NCAA to let them have a one-time transfer without penalty. And there are 469 football players who have entered the transfer portal since Aug. 1 from Power 5 football schools. But here is the thing to remember — everyone still only has 85 scholarships. People grind their teeth about this being free agency where the best programs are going to get all of the best players. Um, that’s already what is happening on a yearly basis. What you may see is a school like Florida loses a couple of guys who are waiting to see if the rule passes so they can play right away. Remember that Florida lost 10 to the transfer portal last year and won 11 games. I think this is a great deal for the players and the coaches and their fan bases will be just fine.
14. I keep getting overwhelmed with kindness that I either am seeing or experiencing first hand. Like my friends Mike and Michelle Martin showing up to drop off specialty cocktails and carrot cake on the front porch. And Sonny’s BBQ’s Shannon Snell taking free food to lucky Twitter followers. And Al Horford donating $500,000 to be distributed in every city where he played basketball (including Gainesville). And Tim Tebow setting up a network where he can deliver inspirational messages to your cellphone (I signed up; I need it). And the kids who are putting on driveway concerts in my neighborhood. There are a lot of people doing wonderful things out there and that makes up for the selfish ones who simply don’t get it.
15. With all of the sad news that we keep hearing, the thing that hit me the hardest this weekend was the death of Doug Sanders. He was 86 and lived an amazing life. The former Florida golfer was a hero of mine as a kid because he was a Gator and because of the way he dressed. I remember tournaments where he wore all lavender from his sweater to his shoes. I interviewed him a couple of times at Augusta National on his way to get a drink from the bar and he always invited me to get one with him (unfortunately, I was working). If I could change one thing that happened in the history of sports, it would be that he made the 3-foot putt to beat Jack Nicklaus in the British Open. It broke my heart that day and he lost by a shot in a playoff. Good night to the “Peacock of the Fairway.”
16. If there is one thing I have learned from many years covering the NFL in the olden days is that be very wary when a team switches gears on you. I’m not saying the Dolphins haven’t changed their minds (nice double negative) and will pick Justin Herbert instead of Tua Tagovailoa. I’m just saying that the NFL front offices are known for their smoke screens. Also, as we get closer to the NFL Draft, I can see the Patriots drafting Georgia’s Jake Fromm in the first round. Bill Belichick likes those smart quarterbacks. Just a hunch.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Joel Beall of Golf Digest (although if I could include the videos I’d have about five from Frank Caliendo) — “Apologies to every golf media spouse who thought they were getting their husband/wife back for Easter only to see them on the couch watching a tournament they have talked about non-stop for the past year.” Yeah, I watched a lot of that Tiger Woods win a year ago on Sunday. And his win over Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson’s win this weekend. Appreciate it CBS and ESPN.
18. Another week has passed and the best comfort has been finding new music. Well, that and finally watching “Breaking Bad.” I’m only on season two, so no spoiler alerts.
• I was listening to this song during a walk and decided to include it. A DJ named Dog Boy at 97X where I did a radio show got me started on my musical journey that allowed me to explore groups that were not mainstream. And this was the song that got me started. “Steven’s Last Night In Town” by The Ben Folds Five.
• “Keeping the Noise Down” by Mabes.
• “California Wasted” by Toad the Wet Sprocket.
• “Hello In There by the late John Prine, one of the great songwriters in the history of America. It was so upsetting to lose him last week that I pulled out the guitar and learned a couple of songs and there have been amazing tributes on social media.
• And for an old one, thanks to Jimmy for sending me several versions of this song although I am sticking with the original. “Isolation” by John Lennon.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Once again, nice job Pat. I didn’t realize that Doug Sanders was a Gator! I remember the outfits he would wear and all you could say is quite colorful! One piece of advice though. If a PGA Player ever asks you to have a drink with him at the bar at Augusta, the answer is YES!

  2. The Doug Sanders’ missed 3 footer at the British Open was one of the top five missed one small strokes that robbed the Golf World of bigger stories forever. My favorite others:

    Larry Mize with just 3 PGA wins, chips in to beat Greg Norman at the Masters. Having Greg appear at the Masters every year would have been better.

    Of course a 59 year old Tom Watson not winning the British Open against Steward Cink. Dang why couldn’t his 8 iron on 18 not have hit a slight down hill spot on the front portion of the green (72nd Hole) and role off the back?