Athletic Director Greg McGarity and University President Jere Morehead struck a confident note today in discussing plans for the 2020 college football season.
Morehead revealed this afternoon that Georgia is planning for a full season of college football, starting on time with the scheduled September 7th tilt with Virginia in Atlanta at Mercedes Benz Stadium. What’s more, Morehead expressed his hope “that we don’t have to put any restrictions on at Sanford Stadium” in terms of crowd attendance and protective gear.
Call me crazy.
Call me cynical.
I don’t buy it.
And to be perfectly candid I’m not sure Morehead fully does either. That’s why his remarks included a series of well-placed caveats, including the admission that he has “no idea what the public-health experts are going to be telling us” when the time comes to actually play ball between the hedges. As Chip Towers notes in the article linked above, the Athletic Association isn’t sharing its internal models for what ticket revenue would look like if they’re forced to refund money to season ticket holders as a result of reduced attendance. Further, no one is talking about the higher costs of sanitation, security, insurance, and medical supplies/monitoring required to run the program in a pandemic. To be fair, I don’t see how anyone could know.
UGA athletic officials want the upcoming football season to go off without a hitch, just like the rest of us. They want life to be normal again. But they need some semblance of their customary revenue stream to run their programs. Putting on a brave face in June is the easy part, and it’s the smart move. Imagine what season ticket demand (which is actually pretty brisk) would look like if Morehead were striking the more doubtful tone some other administrators have.
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, an immunologist, recently said he “can’t imagine a way” to safely bring full crowds back to the Wolverines’ 107,000 seat stadium. And at this stage, if I’m being perfectly honest, hunkering down with 92,000 strangers in Sanford Stadium kind of worries me. There’s yelling, and prolonged proximity. And shared food and iffy sanitation. A college football Saturday is everything public health officials currently warn against all rolled into one.
And that’s before we consider the chances of a college football program being shut down due to a spike in coronavirus cases. Or players refusing to put their health on the line if they believe university safeguards are inadequate. In short, there’s a lot that can still go wrong on the way to game day at this point, and all of it has to go right in sequence to get there.
That’s why my advice for now is to view statements like those from UGA officials today as aspirational. These are not guarantees. They aren’t even predictions. They’re a statement of what folks like Jere Morehead and Greg McGarity are hoping for, but which are almost entirely out of their control.
So go ahead and hope for the best. But please, be prepared for something far less. Until later....