Notre Dame offers hope for leery administrators and football programs

Notre Dame finally announced on Monday that it would welcome students back to campus for the 2020-21 academic year the week of Aug. 10, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. The school will forgo fall break in October and end the semester before Thanksgiving.

According to the ND web site, the reopening plan will include comprehensive testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements. The school also has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students.

The significance, of course, is that Notre Dame is a national icon for college football.  Notre Dame is among the most beloved and respected schools as well, a leading opinion influencer among educational institutions. Does that mean the return of college football is a safe bet for the 2020-21 football season?

Father John Jenkins, the school president, is obviously under pressure to make it happen but not all in yet. “It’s not just our decision,” he told NBC on Tuesday. “It’s the decision of all division one institutions across the nation, and so we’re going to talk to them and see what is safe and what is possible. I hope we’ll have sports. I hope we’ll have football. We’ll just have to see.”

While he wasn’t exactly going out on a limb, one has to give the Notre Dame leader credit for at least broaching the subject. Most other administrators have been reluctant, not wanting to be the first to discuss the possibility of college football next fall.

That doesn’t include the California State University system, which has announced that football can wait. The system includes Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State, the only programs in the CSU system that compete on the FBS level. Not a popular decision and they will regret it if everyone else is playing.

The University of Louisville, meanwhile, has announced that that UofL will return to regular campus operations, including students on campus and attending in-person classes. President Neeli Bendapudi noted even during 2020 spring semester that 2,700 students remained in campus facilities or affiliated housing.

Athletic Director Vince Tyra earlier indicated a decision would depend on whether students are back at school. In essence, then, the University is preparing to go ahead with a full menu this fall. That, of course, would include college football.

UofL was ahead of the game in announcing its plans. The fact that Notre Dame is now planning the do the same will give other administrators the courage to make their plans public. College football fans, desperate for the return of normalcy, may have something to cheer about this fall.

All eyes on Texas A&M

Never doubt that football is king of college sports.

A week after the U. S credit rating is downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, the college athletic landscape appears to be teetering on the edge of a massive transformation — depending on whether Texas A&M is invited and accepts an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference.

Pete Thammel of the New York Times says it best:

For all the billions of dollars, millions of fans and boundless passion that surround college football, that has always been its glaring and bizarre flaw. No one is looking out for the greater good of the game. No one is guiding the sport toward long-term prosperity and short-term sensibility. No one is building consensus and channeling all of the ratings, financial success and popularity toward an outcome that is positive for everyone in the sport.

And with the conference plate tectonics poised to shift with Texas A&M’s possible move to the Southeastern Conference, the college sports world finds itself, yet again, panicking about a major paradigm change.  Must Read.

But Frank The Tank, usually in the know on these issues, won’t believe Texas A&M is going South until it happens:

Last year, the entire world was convinced that the Pac-16 was a “done deal” on a Friday without any doubt in anyone’s mind, but after a weekend of rampant discussions, it ended up collapsing within a few days.  In conference realignment discussions, absolutely nothing is a done deal until you see an announcement with both the inviter and the invitee at a press conference with signed paperwork.  This goes double in the case of public universities located in the state of Texas.  Also note that Tony Barnhart (about as plugged-in with Mike Slive as anyone) and Mr. SEC seem to intimate that it’s not necessarily full speed ahead from the SEC side with a lot more smoke coming from College Station as opposed to Birmingham.

Meanwhile, OrangeBloods.com, a University of Texas fan site, says the Big 12 wants to stick together no matter what happens with Texas A&M:

The Big 12 athletic directors – minus Texas A&M – pledged their commitment to a nine-member conference during a call Saturday afternoon if the Aggies were to bolt for the Southeastern Conference. But the Big 12 ADs are reaching out to A&M to stay in the Big 12. The ADs decided if A&M left and the league was to expand, it would be by only one school, sources said. The early candidates would include BYU, Air Force, TCU and Houston, sources said.

Forgive University of Louisville fans if they’re disappointed their school didn’t at least get an honorable mention on the list. While Tom Jurich says the Big East is a perfect fit for U of L, he would like to have as many options as possible when the ground starts to move.

And the fact that TCU is even on the list, as it prepares to join the Big East in 2012, says a great deal about the callous, cut throat nature of the university community when it comes to athletics, especially football.

Kragthorpe Sorry For Missing Football Camp

The apology tour has begun for Coach Steve Kragthorpe after inexcusably missing an opportunity to represent the University of Louisville program at the Kentucky Football Coaches Clinic on Thursday. About 120 high school football coaches were stood up when Kragthorpe failed to make an appearance.

The observer was reminded of his first impression of Coach K about two weeks after he took the U of L post, the coach showing up more than an hour late for his first meeting with fans at the Neutral Zone in Middletown. Said he couldn’t find the place. Bad omen, the observer was thinking at the time. New guy, new town, let this one pass.

But this latest faux pas is flat out embarrassing. Take it, Coach K:

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Lee Corso Weathers Stroke

The comedic football commentator Lee Corso apparently suffered a minor stroke recently. However, the former University of Louisville football coach is expected to return to ESPN’s announcing crew for the 2009 season.

“This is just a small bump in the road, ” Corso said in a statement issued by ESPN. “A ‘not so fast, my friend’ in my game of life. I look forward to making a full recovery and returning to ESPN for my 23rd season analyzing the greatest sport in the world — college football.”

Corso’s appeal on ESPN broadcasts appears to be his unpredictability. One never knows what he is going to say or which teams or players will be the target of his habitual stereotyping. Some fans are known to wait for Corso’s predictions on big games, then wager against his picks.

Corso coached the Louisville Cardinals from 1969 to 1972, compiling a 28-11-3 record.

EA Sports, NCAA Targets Of Lawsuit

What took so long?

Some former college athletes have filed a class action lawsuit against EA Sports and the NCAA, claiming the video game maker has gone too far in using the images of players but not allowing them to share in the considerable profits from  game sales.

Games like NCAA Football 09 and NCAA Basketball 09, for example, feature characters with striking physical likenesses to actual players and the jersey numbers but without their names. This, of course, significantly enhances the experience for video game fans who identify closely with their teams.

If the lawsuit is successful, it could potentially affect the efforts of all universities in marketing their athletic teams. The universities regularly use star players to promote their programs. Imagine a University of Louisville football schedule poster from the 2006 season not featuring Brian Brohm or last season’s basketball schedule poster without Terrence Williams or Andre McGee.

If there’s anything surprising about the lawsuit, it is the question of why it has taken so long for the players — or the trial lawyers — so long to file the action. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for every college football and basketball player who jersey on a opening game roster who has appeared in an EA game.

EA Sports, the NCAA, and the Collegiate Licensing Company, also named in the suit, argue that the NCAA annually reviews EA’s games and do not believe any violations of NCAA bylaws or student rights have occurred.

Those who have argued for paying college athletes even more than they now receive in the form of scholarships, food, travel and priceless college athletic experiences will be pulling for the ambulance chasers in this fight.

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Candyce To Camp — Lady Card Candyce Bingham reports to the training camp of the San Antonio Silver Stars of the Women’s National Basketball Association this week with no illusions or gurantees. See Sonja’s take here.

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