The Back Nine: Present and future of sports

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[Courtesy of UAA]

The Back Nine comes at you after a week that actually seemed to fly by. The best advice I heard was this — there is only yesterday, today and tomorrow. We don’t need to worry about anything else right now. But I can still write about the maybes. Right?

  1. So my mindset shifted a little bit during this week. I’m not as concerned about when sports comes back as I am about this country and everyone who is dealing with this terrible disease. Especially the health care workers putting their lives on the line. Whenever I get depressed, I just think about my friend Ed Aschoff. Yeah, we’re inconvenienced, but it’s better than the alternative. Ed would have been calling every day to see how I’m doing. That would have been one of 100 calls he would make each day. Keep fighting and stay smart and safe. Sports was and is just a distraction. It’s people who really matter. As bad as this is, I wish Ed was around to experience it. So when you get down, think of those who aren’t here to deal with the boredom. 
  2. Two things that relate to football and when we’ll see it. The first was an interview Kirk Herbstreit did last week when he said he doesn’t see football — either pro or college — coming back this season. Herbie got ripped by some people for saying it, but we are all thinking that there is a real possibility that can be the case. Nobody knows for sure whether we’ll see a season. Right now, I would consider it a bonus if any football is played in 2020. The thought of a packed stadium makes me uneasy. Nobody likes football more than I do, but there are more important things. The truth is that none of us have any idea what the fall will look like. 
  3. The second was a story in the Sports Business Journal by John Ourand that there are athletic directors who are considering starting the season in July and playing a short season before there is another wave of COVID-19 hits. He got ripped, too. I just don’t see that happening. Can you imagine a football game in the heat and humidity of July in the South? One thing is for sure, the financial landscape of all sports will change drastically if there is no football because it is the big moneymaker for every athletic department. Scott Stricklin said last week on our radio show that — because UF isn’t spending to send teams on the road or recruiting — it would be a wash financially through the end of the spring sports seasons even though the NCAA won’t be sending millions to the schools because of the lack of an NCAA basketball tournament. But if there is no football, every school is going to have to re-examine the way they spend money and that may well include eliminating sports. Every school is working on contingency plans, including a shortened football season. Maybe only play conference games and start in late September. But it’s all just speculation right now.
  4. What isn’t speculation is that the Division I Council voted Monday to offer a blanket waiver to all seniors in spring sports only. Now, the question becomes what coaches of those sports do with those seniors because the decision did not include any expansion of rosters or scholarships. I never thought the winter sports athletes ever had a chance to get a year back in part because of the cost of scholarships if you added them on top of the spring sports. Basically, with the spring sports, they are leaving it up to the coaches to manage the rosters. Because they will allow the rosters to expand, I can’t imagine many seniors being told to hit the road. But this is something that was settled and still far from settled. 
  5. There was a story I was working on before all of this happened about the art of scheduling, which seems to me a moot point right now. But one thing that did come out of it is that Florida and FSU will start opening up their baseball series with the first game being in Tallahassee instead of Gainesville. Then, Jacksonville and finally the new baseball stadium in Gainesville. I always felt Florida had a slight advantage with the first game here, but FSU pushed for the change and Kevin O’Sullivan was good with it. In the end, it’s still three games at three sites.  
  6. So let’s say that football does begin with fall practice on time. There certainly are programs that are going to be hurt by a lack of spring practice. LSU — with new coordinators and a new quarterback — certainly comes to mind. Any team with a new head coach or new coordinators or a new quarterback will be in a bit of a hole. This may seem crass, but Florida would have an advantage in this case. So there’s that.
  7. There hasn’t been a lot of good news of late, but certainly one thing that happened last week was that the Florida Board of Trustees approved a measure to name the UF swimming and diving pool after Ann Marie Rogers. “It’s wonderful,” Rogers said. “I never expected anything like this. It’s helped me get through this virus.” A gift from former UF swimmer Veronica Meinhard and her wife Kristina Johnson of $1 million in Rogers’ name was the impetus. Rogers, who retired in 2003 after 18 years as UF’s associate director of athletics, was one of the driving forces behind Florida becoming what it is today in women’s sports. And as good a person as I’ve ever known in all of my dealings with the University Athletic Association. It wasn’t always easy getting women’s sports to be taken seriously, both in her previous stint at Alabama and at UF. She wanted to point out that two big gifts that women’s athletics received came from Joe Namath at Alabama and Steve and Jerri Spurrier at Florida. Name-dropper. The ceremony will take place in the fall and it could not be more fitting. She’s the best.
  8. The Tweet of the Week goes to the great Harry Shearer, who sent this out on Thursday — “Happy birthday to Martin Short. Still, after all these years, not that strong a swimmer.” Made me laugh. Still one of the best SNL skits ever. If you are not familiar, look it up.
  9. It’s painful, but I have no choice but to start walking again because, well, what else can you do these days? Fortunately, the music is in me. So is this playlist: 

* “Shaking” by Hazel English.

* “Cities in the Dust” by Siouxsie and The Banshees.

* “The Architect” by Jane Weaver.

* “The Alarmist” by Pinegrove, which I also learned how to play during quarantine. 

* And for an old one, it seems apropos to ask you to give a listen to one of my favorite singers sing one of my favorite Tom Petty songs. So, “The Waiting” by Linda Ronstadt. Aren’t we all just waiting and isn’t it the hardest part?

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

 

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