So, here we are. It’s late July — the long-discussed deadline for substantive decisions on 2020’s college football season — and we’re still awaiting word on what, exactly, that season will look like.
Here’s some good news, or at least some recent activity on the matter: The NCAA issued a blanket waiver to allow all FBS schools to start their schedules as early as Aug. 29, which is about a week earlier than usual and comes in a month that is typically reserved for fall camp. Any team that decides to play in August can begin said camp as early as this weekend. The hope, I guess, is that this can provide some flexibility with scheduling, especially if a future coronavirus outbreak puts the season temporarily — or permanently — on pause.
Other than that, though, most of the Power Five conferences are playing it close to the vest, and clearly waiting as long as they possibly can to make a call, though I’m not sure for what. (As much as we’d all love for it to, COVID-19 isn’t going to just evaporate into thin air because conference commissioners stalled for another week or two.) The Big Ten and Pac-12 have elected to play abbreviated conference-only seasons, and the Big 12 hasn’t made a move other than to declare it will play 12 games. A slew of Group of Five and FCS conferences have punted on football altogether this fall, likely pushing the sport to spring.
For our purposes, we really want to know not just what the SEC is up to, but what the ACC is considering as well. (Additionally, the Big 12 is working with both conferences, though I’m not sure in what capacity — I don’t know if they’re all just putting their heads together, or if there could be some kind of regional pod scheduling discussion so that each league can play a full 12-game schedule with some non-conference matchups.)
With the current trend toward conference-only schedules, many Gamecock fans have wondered about the fate of the Palmetto Bowl, which has been played uninterrupted since 1909 and is the sport’s second-longest running rivalry. Fortunately, the word on the street is that both schools are working hard to make it happen, which I’m sure is aided by how the SEC and ACC have multiple interconference rivalries they’d want to preserve. According to The Clemson Insider, Clemson president Jim Clements met with the media last week and emphasized how the big game was a big priority:
“We all are going to say yes to that one. We all want to preserve it. We all want to play it. It is important and we are going to do our best to make sure that happens.”
His words were backed up by Clemson associate athletic director Graham Neff, who added this bit of reassurance:
“(Clemson AD) Dan (Radakovich) and Ray Tanner, as you know, are former colleagues and are really good friends quite frankly, so they talk very frequently. That collaboration within the state is an important part in making that game, in particular, and being they work together, a reality. That is an important active part of football game planning.”
Logistically speaking, it makes sense — it’s not like South Carolina and Clemson are in different states or regions, although it does sound like the Upstate is struggling more with COVID-19 at the moment. The sports leagues seeing the most success with controlling the virus so far have been playing in regional bubbles, so if South Carolina were forced into a shortened schedule with, say, only SEC East Division teams and Clemson, that seems doable.
Of course, the Tigers will going for a record-tying seventh straight win over the Gamecocks, so some folks in the Garnet and Black may not be too upset if this doesn’t go off as planned. How are y’all feeling about it? Get it in by any means, or eh, it’s cool if it can’t happen? We’ll hopefully know more about which way the wind is blowing after the ACC’s meeting this week, and failing that, it’ll be decision time for real in early August.