Saturdays in Athens
George Somerville. Saturday 6th June 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
Here are this weeks headlines….
History In The Making
Baton Rouge, LA.
LSU this week announced a series of games versus Grambling State and Southern in 2022 and 2023.
Despite the campuses of Southern and LSU being in Baton Rouge, this will be the first time that LSU will have played either Grambling or Southern in their 126 year history.
These schedules are particularly poignant this week in that both Grambling and Southern are dominant program’s in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The SWAC is a FCS level conference which comprises of historically black colleges and universities (“HBCU’s”).
Both schools have a strong tradition of producing players for the NFL and this again places a focus on smaller but very relevant football programmes.
While many scoff at so called “cupcake” games, scheduled games against smaller schools play an important part in raising well needed revenue and national exposure for these schools.
LSU athletic director, Scott Woodward announced Monday:
“This is an incredible opportunity to join our fan bases of these historic Louisiana institutions and championship programs. These dates will be days to celebrate not only football, but the state of Louisiana and all of our people. It’s time and we are all proud to be a part of it”.
Pat Dye : 1939 - 2020
Sad news this week that Auburn’s legendary head football coach Pat Dye had passed away aged 80.
Dye, a native of Georgia, played football for the Bulldogs and was a teammate of Fran Tarkenton.
However, it was as a football coach that Dye was to make his name. After junior coaching roles at Alabama, East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye was appointed Head Coach at Auburn in 1981. He had a hugely successful career with the Tigers, with a record of 99-39-4 in his 12 seasons as Head Coach, tying for the second most wins in school history.
Auburn’s playing field at Jordan-Hare was named after Coach Dye in 2005 and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in the same year.
Coach Dye had been admitted to hospital with kidney issues but also tested positive for Covid-19 whilst in hospital.
sec coaches Speak Out
Across The South.
In the wake of protests over the murder of George Floyd, the football coaching community has been criticised for being slow to condemn the acts of the police and to show support for the protests.
SEC schools and Head Coaches who are perhaps under more scrutiny than most on the subject of racial intolerance were among the minority, at least in the early part, to speak out. The Head Coaches of Alabama, Georgia and Florida made statements Monday as the protests escalated and consumed the US.
Yet criticism of their statements was not far away. Not hard hitting enough or didn’t go far enough were the criticisms.
None of the schools mentioned have come out to defend themselves – even though they have issued statements whilst others have remained silent on the matter.
However, whatever you think of the tone of the statements, these Coaches are active in supporting their student athletes. It is essential as they are the leaders of their teams and set the tone for the culture of their athletics department and dare I say it, the school.
Nick Saban has for over two decades included discussion about integration and equality in his team meetings. While Head Coach at LSU he invited the Reverend Jesse Jackson to speak at his meetings. Many other high profile, African American role models have been invited including the late Kobe Bryant.
This is a difficult subject which continues to divide the South and America.
Covid On Campus
After much deliberation, the SEC announced last month that athletic programmes could re-open on June 1st, with voluntary workouts commencing June 8th.
All good it seemed, and many including me heralded the return of college football. But at the same time questions remained as to just how schools in general, but specifically athletic programmes, could successfully operate social distancing.
So the worst possible news came out of Tuscaloosa this week when CBS News 42 Channel* in Birmingham reported that at least five Crimson Tide players had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
The report stated that a number of players had congregated on campus on the band field, including the five who subsequently tested positive. Which means the potential for a higher number of positive tests is possible. The meeting was not a scheduled team activity with the players meeting up in their free time.
However, the question looms large over the whole of sports. What happens when team members test positive and team facilities, maybe even complete teams are put into lockdown?
The coming season will be an unpredictable and challenging one.
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.