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The Future of Football: Bowls, scheduling and more

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Photo by Paul Abell via Abell Images for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

The haze of the COVID-19 pandemic has clouded the picture for all sports, and few have been impacted more than college football. 

While the NCAA did share some health and safety protocols on Aug. 5, it’s primarily been conferences and schools taking control — as much as one can in the middle of raging pandemic — of their destinies in an attempt to save football.

Teams have shuffled their schedules around and athletic directors have offered hopeful, yet vague comments about the prospects of playing football this season. The only thing to be certain of in the middle of the pandemic is uncertainty. 

That said, the prospects of conference-only schedules and spring football are intriguing to many fans, largely because it offers the promise of live sports. These adjustments, seemingly shifting on a daily basis, breed questions, suggesting that many long-sought changes might be within reach.

The question is if the pandemic has done enough to foster significant, structural change with regards to scheduling, the bowl system and the future of the College Football Playoffs.

The answer, of course, is … maybe?

The Future of Football: Collective bargaining

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Picture of Alabama football players on the field.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

We’ve updated this story after some additional conversations and new developments in the past day.

The demands don’t seem to be that outrageous, right?

Fair wages to compensate you for your work. Appropriate safety protocols to help navigate a global pandemic. A comfortable, trusting environment that fosters open dialogue.

It’s what most employees would want in their workplaces, and it’s what most individuals can seek through a variety of measures, such as job transitions or collective bargaining. In the world of college athletics, however, such demands are treated more often than not as controversial requests.

But both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd have spurred an important awakening among athletes at all levels of play. While professional athletes have the protection of their unions to give them the necessary leverage to demand — and enact — change, student-athletes have lacked that type of singular, unified voice to push for change.

That appears to be changing.

Is Kirby Smart Georgia’s Steve Spurrier?

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Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw

How have you been sleeping lately?

I’ve been struggling over the last few months. Even if I am lucky to fall asleep quickly, I often find myself staring at the ceiling at 4 a.m. There is plenty to think about these days.

Perhaps the Groundhog Day effect of COVID-19 has me more anxious than usual. Maybe it’s the stories in the news that beat me into a feelings coma day after day. Maybe I shouldn’t have started a business during a pandemic. 

But there is a question — it’s almost a realization at this point — that haunts me more often than it should, especially in those moments when my eyes are shut but my mind is wide open.

“What if Georgia has their Steve Spurrier?”

The best game that some saw

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Westside's Ricky Moore guards Thomson's Vonteego Cummings.
Westside's Ricky Moore guards Thomson's Vonteego Cummings. Photo by Eric Olig.

In Augusta, it’s simply known as “The Game.”

Attendance is a badge of honor for the town’s old guard.

To say you were there means something. It separates you from the embellishers and fibbers who cobbled together an incomplete retelling from newspaper reports and secondhand recaps.

Given the technology at our fingertips today, it’s hard to process that there isn’t readily available footage of it out there. In 1995, there were no iPhones, no YouTube, no Twitter. If you weren’t there, you didn’t see it. Simple as that.

An unfortunate hiatus

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Photo by Jeff Blake

The SEC’s decision to pursue a 10-game, conference-only schedule has sent shockwaves through college football, uprooting longtime rivalries and upending a season that some are skeptical will happen anyway.

Nowhere is this disruption being felt more deeply than in South Carolina as the Clemson-South Carolina game, after more than 100 years of continuous play, will be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It’s why South Carolina was the only SEC institution to vote against the conference-only plan in hopes of preserving what is affectionately known as “The Palmetto Bowl.”

Remembering ‘The Run’

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Courtesy of Georgia Southern University

The best part is that he doesn’t even score.

He comes close, tumbling over and landing on his side within 10 yards of the ultimate goal. For more than 50 yards, he’s run roughshod through defenders, eluding flat-footed linebackers and stiff-arming undersized safeties.

And then, well, he just seems to fall down, finally wobbling after a desperate, last-gasp lunge by a defender. If you just glance at it quickly, it almost seems to be a calculated decision on his part, designed to let the defense know that less than one minute later, you’re gonna have to do this all over again.

What is “Beyond The Trestle?”

To understand why this website is now a thing, it’s important to know that I had a hard time liking college basketball in the late 1990s.

It was nothing against the sport itself. I’ve loved basketball since I was a kid. I’ve loved the pace of the game, the noise of a crowded arena, the energy a breakaway dunk can give a home crowd. But, when I arrived in Athens, Ga., in the fall of 1996, you can say that I was a little underwhelmed by, well, all of it.

That’s not the fault of that particular Georgia men’s basketball team. Far from it. That team, actually, was pretty good by Bulldog standards. You see, I was spoiled.

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