South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner made an appearance on 107.5 FM on Wednesday evening, providing the first update we’ve heard in weeks on how the football season — and team — is progressing through this seemingly never-ending period of coronavirus uncertainty.
The biggest takeaway: Tanner doesn’t “see a scenario” where the football season is canceled and remains “hopeful” that one plays out, though he thinks a delay or postponement is the more likely path toward that reality. The Ivy League is putting all fall sports on pause until January, which sets up a spring football season, and Tanner indicated similar discussions have been had within the SEC. (Additionally, a hypothetical spring season would likely have a reduced number of games, so that 2021’s season could proceed as normal in the fall.) Although the opening weekend of college football is closer than it is farther away (Sept. 5), there’s not a set date on when a decision will be made — the hope is to nail something down by later this month or early August.
Perhaps the second most pressing question after whether football will be played is whether any fans can be in attendance. Current sporting events (NWSL/MLS soccer matches, most NASCAR races, golf events) have been adhering to a no spectators policy, but Tanner said 15,000 to 20,000 Gamecock fans could possibly hang out in Williams-Brice Stadium in accordance with social distancing measures. Now, how they’d go about determining who gets in among the various donors, season ticket holders, and single-game ticket buyers is a whole ‘nother mess entirely...
As for on-campus coronavirus testing, a number of schools — including Clemson and North Carolina — have grabbed recent headlines with eye-popping positive numbers among their athletes. Tanner declined to share the results of South Carolina’s testing thus far, though he said the numbers were “extremely low” and in some sports “nonexistent.” I guess that assurance will have to be good enough for now, especially as the state of South Carolina increasingly becomes a COVID-19 hot spot.
Oh, and when it comes to cutting sports — which Stanford just announced, axing 11 varsity programs — Tanner remains reluctant to do so, saying that USC has cut its budget by 15 percent, in part from furloughs that began July 1. It’s a situation to keep an eye on, though.