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Will the 2020 college football season be canceled? Coaches, ADs weigh possibility and impact

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What was once unthinkable has quietly become a discussion point and concern throughout college athletics. Will the coronavirus pandemic force the cancellation of the 2020 college football season?

With it already having taken out the NCAA Tournament and the remainder of 2019-20 season, including the College World Series, athletic departments are looking ahead to football as the next major event on the collegiate sports calendar.

“I am not trying to be overly pessimistic, but I’m doubtful we’re going to have a 2020 football season, NFL or college,” said Warren K. Zola, a respected expert on sports law and executive director of Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. “That’s just me. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that we’re all back over the summer.”

From a view more than five months from kickoff on Aug. 29, that concept is hard to comprehend.

Just pause for a moment and consider where we are right now as a country with the coronavirus. With 72 percent of Americans believing containment will take a few months or longer, 57 percent say the battle with the coronavirus is “going badly,” according to a CBS News poll. There are currently 55,330 confirmed cases in the United States with 804 deaths, and neither the testing rate nor the infection rate has reached its peak.

Now imagine, five months from now, jamming 100,000 fans on a steamy Saturday afternoon into a stadium to watch 22 men in close proximity on any given snap running 150-plus plays.

That’s the furthest thing from social distancing.

It hit Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork this week when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed. That event was set to take place roughly a month before the start of the college football season (July 24 to Aug. 9). Olympic officials finally concluded it was not wise for 11,000 athletes from all over the world to congregate for two-plus weeks.

“With that news right there, then that starts creeping into the football season and training camps and scheduling,” Bjork said. “… I don’t know how you operate [if the season is canceled]. Where would the bailout come from? Because we would all have to have one if we were going to maintain any sort of normalcy.”

Since about March 12, when the NCAA Tournament was canceled, the nation in general has been hunkered down facing a new normal: trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

That has left college athletic programs pondering the possible loss of their top revenue generator. The cancellation of the 2020 college football season — or even a drastic reduction in its games — would dwarf missing out on a month of March Madness. Football is the nation’s most popular sport. The country’s attachment to it — economically and emotionally — cannot be underestimated.

College football as an enterprise accounted for $6.5 billion in revenue during the 2018-19 academic year, according to Andy Schwarz, a partner and consulting expert with California-based law firm OSKR. That’s an average of $51 million per school.

In general, 80 percent of FBS athletic budgets are made up of football revenue.

“Just the thought of it, I think we’re all thinking about [losing the season],” Georgia AD Greg McGarity said. “Now, what does that mean? That’s what is going to be defined here over the next two or three weeks.”

Or more.

Spring practices and spring games are already canceled. Players have moved home to study remotely. Recruiting activities have been suspended, too.

After the semester concludes, what’s next?

Coronavirus cases are multiplying at a dizzying rate in hot spots like New York. Obviously, there is no assurance the practices lost this spring will be made up in the summer … nor whether players will even be able to assemble in a group before fall camp begins … if it begins at all.

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall already said he is open to a “modified season.”

North Carolina coach Mack Brown recently told reporters, “There is a fear of, ‘Would we have a season?’ Would we have a partial season? What does a partial season mean?’ There is a great concern because of the remedy that comes in with football.”

“I just told our staff this is like a war. It’s like a natural disaster. We have to treat it as such,” Brown said in a separate interview with CBS Sports.

Asked about the season being impacted, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham told The Athletic, “I think there’s absolutely that possibility, as much as I hate to say it.”

There is no central authority for college football. If there are cancellations, they will likely come ad hoc from the conferences.

Whatever happens, college football is most likely to take its lead from the SEC. Asked directly last week whether a complete season would be played in 2020, commissioner Greg Sankey said, “I’m a half-full person, so I have optimism.”

Twice in the last week, Sankey has referred somewhat cryptically to “contingency plans.” Asked to define those plans on “The Paul Finebaum Show,” Sankey said, “Not yet, simply because the focus is on next year as scheduled. … There will be a time to figure out what that means.”

“I think you always have to have contingency plans as much as possible,” Florida AD Scott Stricklin said. “I’m optimistic [that], because of the dramatic steps everyone’s taken, we’re going to be able to have a sense of normalcy.”

Stricklin raised eyebrows when he previously told the Orlando Sentinel: “[Not playing] will shake the foundation of college athletics. As everyone knows, football pays for the enterprise to go forward.”

One example of the impact: Georgia’s $176 million athletic budget is the sixth-largest in the country. That means football is responsible for $141 million of that total (80 percent).

“If we just had more clarity on when the all-clear horn is going to sound, that certainly helps,” McGarity said. “That’s what nobody really knows right now. It would be irresponsible to say that we feel good about [starting practice] Aug. 1. … You don’t want young people to all the sudden get their hopes up.”

“Mr. College Football” Tony Barnhart has covered the sport for everyone from CBS Sports and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the SEC Network. He is a national voice for college football and a prominent one in the South. For the last 30-plus years, Barnhart has attended the Florida-Georgia game with his fraternity brothers.

When the mere prospect of there not being a season was raised last week, Barnhart said, “My fraternity brothers were not happy. They said, ‘Listen, you can do what you want to do, but you cannot mess with our Florida-Georgia game and don’t mess with college football.'”

“Will we get through it?” he added. “Yes. But the psychological blow of not having a college season in my part of the world would be significant. The thought of not having it would be tough, tough to handle.”

CBS Sports spoke with several coaches and administrators on the subject.

Some were optimistic. “I gotta look at it like we’re going to have a season,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said. “We’re going to get this thing in.”

Some were whimsical. “I saw somebody said, ‘If you threatened college football season, everybody in the South would lock themselves in their house for two weeks to get it over with,'” Stricklin said. “I kind of feel like we’re not far from that. I think people are really taking it seriously.”

Some were philosophical. “I don’t want to be an alarmist, but there a lot of realities that are going to result,” McGarity said. “Just like your 401K [and] mine. All the money we saved in our investments are affected.”

Some were matter of fact. “I think we will [play],” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “We’ve got to follow the medical people and what they think. The biggest thing, the scariest thing, is the unknown. They don’t know the full dimension of this.”

Try selling season tickets in these uncertain times. Several schools have extended renewal deadlines for obvious reasons.

“One or two things could drive that [interest] down,” Stricklin said. “One is people don’t think [the season is] going to happen. I don’t think we’re at that point.”

Try raising money for facilities. Florida and Georgia are well down the road in raising funds for building major athletic projects.

Never mind any existing shortfall. There may be issue of re-recruiting donors who have already pledged.

“Those are all gifts,” McGarity said. “They’re not obligated by law to make those gifts come true.”

There is uncertainty everywhere.

For now, we’d all settle for the season coming true. 



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N.J. school district again delays start of in-person classes, suspends sports, over COVID-19 concerns

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Find all of the most important pandemic education news on Educating N.J., a special resource guide created for parents, students and educators. As schools reopen across N.J., we want to know what is and isn’t working. Tell us about it here.

A Gloucester County high school will again delay the start of in-person classes because of multiple cases of the coronavirus and concerns over a large gathering that students recently attended, officials said Sunday.

In-person hybrid education for high school students at Washington Township Public Schools was slated to begin Monday, but has been postponed until Sept. 24, according to Superintendent Joseph N. Bollendorf. Remote learning will continue and the change only applies to the high school.

Also, all sports programs and other in-person activities at the high school will be suspended until further notice. the letter said.

“District staff have worked exceedingly hard to prepare our schools and to create programs that would permit our students, electing to avail themselves to in-person instruction, to return to our schools on Monday, September 21st; however, there are many variables out of the District’s control that impact our ability to provide in-person instruction,” Bollendorf said in a letter to school community.

Bollendorf said he learned this weekend of a large gathering of high school seniors. The event came to light after the district already reported cases of the coronavirus involving the high school, including sports teams. More information on the gathering was not immediately available.

“Unfortunately, there is much evidence to show that neither social distancing nor face coverings were in place. We have multiple students that have been determined to be close contacts of the COVID-19 cases we are currently tracing, and now have a significant concern as to whether or not students were placed at risk during this function,” Bollendorf said in the letter.

“My number one responsibility is to ensure the health and safety of our students and our staff. We are currently working closely with our health department to begin the arduous process of adding this event to our responsibilities related to the contact tracing of known COVID-19 cases and potential additional positive cases. This will take some time,” he added.

Last week, school officials reported three staff members – two employees at Hurffville Elementary who work in separate parts of the building and a staffer at Washington Township High School tested positive for COVID-19 – prompting officials to temporarily switch to all-remote learning.

Washington Township was among at least six districts that have announced schedule changes just days into the academic year in response to cases of the contagious pathogen among staff and students.

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Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com.

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NFL Week 2 scores, highlights, updates, schedule: Tom Brady to Mike Evans connection gets rolling in a big way

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It’s the second NFL Sunday of the 2020 season and we’re keeping you updated on all the action and biggest storylines throughout the day. The Week 2 slate has some fantastic matchups and storylines that we can’t wait to watch unfold. Check back often to find everything you need to know about Week 2.

SCHEDULE

Thursday

Browns 35, Bengals 30 (Recap)

Sunday 

Jaguars at Titans (GameTracker)
Panthers at Buccaneers (GameTracker)
Bills at Dolphins (GameTracker)
Falcons at Cowboys (GameTracker)
Broncos at Steelers (GameTracker)
Vikings at Colts (GameTracker)
49ers at Jets (GameTracker)
Rams at Eagles (GameTracker)
Lions at Packers (GameTracker)
Giants at Bears (GameTracker)
Washington at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET (Preview)
Chiefs at Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET (Preview)
Ravens at Texans, 4:25 p.m. ET (Preview)
Patriots at Seahawks, 8:20 p.m. ET (Preview)

Monday

Saints at Raiders, 8:15 p.m. ET (Preview)

Claypool takes one to the house

In Week 1, rookie WR Chase Claypool may have made the single best catch of the week — and he did it in primetime. In Week 2, the talented size/speed freak showed off his 4.42 speed with an 84-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger. At the combine, Claypool ran the 4.42 at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds. Claypool already looks like a rich man’s Martavis Bryant with Roethlisberger in that offense. Big things are ahead for the rookie.

Brady and Evans hook up for first TD

There was some surprising chatter about Mike Evans not being a good fit for Tom Brady at this stage of his career. That chatter was quiet in Week 2 when Brady got rolling with Evans early. After racking up a 50-yard connection, Brady and Evans capped off the drive with a beautiful back-shoulder fade for a 23-yard touchdown. As we near the end of the second quarter, Brady and Evans are nearing the 100-yard mark.

Welcome back Jordan Reed!

At one point, it felt like Jordan Reed might never suit up again in the NFL until the San Francisco 49ers signed him. Coach Shanahan saw the upside of a tight end like Reed in his offense and in Week 2 it came to fruition. Reed caught a flat pass and turned up field showing his vintage post-catch ability in the open field. The result? Another touchdown for the 49ers. Welcome back, Jordan!

Mostert shows off elite speed

Raheem Mostert has been one of the NFL’s fastest timed players (at top speed) on multiple occasions since taking over as the 49ers lead RB and he just showed up that elite speed again. On the first offensive play of the game, Mostert housed a pitch for 80 yards and a touchdown against the hapless Jets. Look at the top speed he reaches to gain the edge and then take it all the way to the house. According to NFL Next Gen stats, Mostert reached 23.09 MPH — the fastest speed reached by any player since 2018.

Jones has a full array of weapons

For the first time since taking over as the starting quarterback of the New York Giants in Week 3 of the 2019 season, Daniel Jones will be throwing the ball to the exact combination of skill players the Giants designed to build around him. With Golden Tate (hamstring) active after missing Week 1, this is the first game in Jones’ career that he will have Tate, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton all on the field together at the same time. Of course, on the flip side, the Bears will be returning pass rusher Robert Quinn, who missed Week 1. 



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Lamar Jackson is even better equipped to win MVP in 2020 | NFL News

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Lamar Jackson is still waiting on the first playoff win of his NFL career

Lamar Jackson is still waiting on the first playoff win of his NFL career

Lamar Jackson might be even better than we all thought.

Not that it is much of a revelation. He was always going to be better in 2020, the question was how much better on the back of a spellbinding breakout season.

The NFL’s reigning MVP strutted into Week One and rather nonchalantly flicked his wrist for 20 passes (80 per cent), 275 yards and three touchdowns without ever really needing to turn on the afterburners as the Baltimore Ravens dismantled the Cleveland Browns 38-6.

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Awareness for his rushing artistry was a more powerful weapon than his ankle-breaking bursts themselves, Jackson recording just seven carries for 45 yards with a frightening self-assurance of his ability escape using his legs if need be.

For the Ravens to look so dominant without having to unleash Jackson on the ground came as a smug reminder of their post-December credentials. It was as though John Harbaugh was warning the rest of the league ‘it’s there if we need it’.

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A look back at the action from the opening Sunday of the NFL season

A look back at the action from the opening Sunday of the NFL season

Jackson’s arms were the talk of the town this offseason. Following January’s playoff elimination against the Tennessee Titans, outsiders pressed to know whether this Michael Vick, Cam Newton-esque dual threat could hurt teams in the air. Ask the folk in Cleveland, they were hurting.

His composure and authority in the pocket was striking, the smoothness to his passing glorious on the eye, his decision-making unflinching. This was not a quarterback being weighed down by challenges on his arm talent.

Jackson finished 10 of 10 for 128 yards on play-action passes, nine of 10 for 180 yards on passes for 10+ yards and three of four on tight-window throws, according to ESPN.

The only near-miscue came on the opening touchdown pass to Mark Andrews, who had to stretch for a stunning one-handed grab after Jackson had put a little too much zing on the throw. Nonetheless, the play provided a glimpse of Jackson’s maturity as he jolted half of the Browns secondary to the left with his eyes before switching back to find his tight end wide open in the middle of the endzone.

Hollywood Brown was on cue to feature in an exhibition of Jackson’s passing ability when he latched onto a perfectly-weighted 49-yard bomb on a deep-corner route. Exquisite touch and precision was matched by patience in the pocket as Jackson eased the ball into the stride of his wide receiver.

Later in the game Jackson stood unfazed after some confusion from Gus Edwards in the fake, calmly feeling pressure from the left and hitting Brown on the slant while taking the contact. Not only was the play another reflection of his demeanor, but it reaffirmed his even greater understanding of this Ravens offense and his growing trust in Brown to be where he needed to.

“It’s now our job to be at the spot, because that’s where he’s putting it,” said Brown after the game.

“He’s doing a good job of throwing it away from defenders and throwing it to where you can catch and run. So, he’s been doing a good job of just improving his game.”

Growth in his choices with the ball was evident as well, one play seeing Jackson make a simple pass to a wide-open Willie Snead to set up a first-and-goal situation. There was no burning need to do the spectacular, with coach Harbaugh complementing explosiveness with simplicity.

Deeper in the game Jackson fired a dagger to Andrews for his second touchdown of the game with a conviction and accuracy that instructed his tight end where to be.

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Andrews’ superb one-handed touchdown catch against the Browns

Andrews’ superb one-handed touchdown catch against the Browns

Week One can tempt us into jumping to conclusions, but Jackson’s expansion as a passer has been evident since last season. With Sunday’s performance he has now completed 70.6 per cent of his passes for 1,752 yards, 28 touchdowns and one interception in his last nine regular seasons.

Jackson himself will be the first to say he is blessed with a fine supporting cast, including offensive coordinator Greg Roman who you suspect has barely scratched the surface of his plans for the man under center.

His bulging playbook may well have got bigger in the summer upon the arrival of second-round pick J.K. Dobbins as an injection of added variation in the Ravens backfield.

The rookie, who rushed for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns in total last season, played 23 snaps against the Browns, while veteran Mark Ingram played 21, Edwards 15 and fullback Patrick Ricard 23.

Baltimore adopted the look of a committee backfield in the opening weekend, previewing the kind of rotation that promises to make life even tougher for defenses scheming ways of thwarting the threat of Jackson as a runner.

“There’s no exact science there,” said Roman on the Ravens’ use of their running backs. “It’ll be different every week. We like to keep people guessing.”

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Dobbins ran in for two touchdowns on his debut for the team, although did not make a catch having recorded at least 20 in each of his three seasons at Ohio State for a combined 645 yards. Expect to see that part of his game more as the season progresses.

On the outside Brown produced encouraging signs of embracing the No 1 wide receiver role with five catches for 101 yards after struggling with injuries and consistency in 2019. His ability to create separation as a deep and intermediate threat across the field will be a nice addition to the seam-action of tight end Andrews in stretching opposition defenses.

Additionally, Myles Boykin looks primed to play a more prominent role as a vertical threat in the Ravens offense after making just 22 catches for 198 yards and three scores in his rookie year, while sixth-round pick James Proche, who returned punts on Sunday, will have his chance to serve as a target in the open field.

One man not being spoken about quite as much as other rookies is third-round pick Devin Duvernay.

The Texas product became Sam Ehlinger’s lead receiver in 2019 with 106 catches for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns, asserting himself as one of the top options in the slot while averaging 6.9 yards after the catch. His only reception in Week One came in the form of a 12-yard gain from a checkdown.

4:33
Around the world social injustice has taken centre stage, but it’s been a conversation that’s been going on in the NFL for four years now…

Around the world social injustice has taken centre stage, but it’s been a conversation that’s been going on in the NFL for four years now…

His aggressive style with the ball in hand hints at an opportunity for him to mirror the kind of multi-purpose role Deebo Samuel stepped into during his rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers. With Roman’s plans for variation in the backfield in mind, do not be surprised to see him run one or two jet sweeps with Duvernay.

The game slows down for Jackson at little bit more with each drive, which can only be bad news for the rest of the NFL. To top it off, a strengthened backfield and a deeper receiver corps means the Ravens have a greater freedom to pick and choose when they let him loose.

One of the most exciting players of his generation meets another this weekend when Jackson comes up against Deshaun Watson and a Houston Texans side looking to recover from their opening day defeat to the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs.

Watch the Texans host the Ravens live from 9:25pm Sunday on Sky Sports NFL, followed by the New England Patriots at the Seattle Seahawks.

J.J. Watt: We must contain Lamar

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J.J. Watt says the Texans must look to contain Lamar Jackson as they attempt to bounce back in Week Two against the Ravens.

J.J. Watt says the Texans must look to contain Lamar Jackson as they attempt to bounce back in Week Two against the Ravens.

J.J. Watt says the Houston Texans must look to contain Lamar Jackson as they attempt to bounce back in Week Two against the Baltimore Ravens.

“It’s a great challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it; we want to try to contain him, Watt told Sky Sports‘ Neil Reynolds.

“He’s very dangerous when he gets out on the run, so the first thing is we want to try and keep him in that pocket.

“But he’s also good in the pocket, so when he is, you want to pressure him, get after him and gets as many guys to the ball as you can to make it as difficult as possible. That’s our goal.”

Rob Ryan: Bucs must meet Brady halfway

Tom Brady threw two interceptions on his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut

Tom Brady threw two interceptions on his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut

Former NFL coach Rob Ryan insists the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must “meet Tom Brady halfway” after the quarterback endured a forgettable debut in their Week One defeat to the New Orleans Saints.

Head coach Bruce Arians didn’t refrain from criticising Brady publicly after the game, particularly when it came to his two interceptions and Ryan disagreed with that approach.

“First of all, I thought his team was grossly out-coached in the game,” said Ryan on Inside the Huddle. “Not with Todd Bowles, I thought Todd Bowles did a great job on defense but I’m talking about first of all, the special teams was atrocious.

“‘If you want to get ripped publicly, I’ll rip you publicly’, because that’s the wrong thing to do to Tom Brady. He would get ripped by Bill Belichick privately and in the meetings amongst his peers. How about rip yourself?”

Neville and Carragher’s NFL Predictions

1:51
It’s Shane Warne and Nasser Hussain’s turn to take on Sky Sports’ weekly NFL predictions… can they repeat Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s Week One success? Sign up to play NFL Pick’Em

It’s Shane Warne and Nasser Hussain’s turn to take on Sky Sports’ weekly NFL predictions… can they repeat Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s Week One success? Sign up to play NFL Pick’Em

It’s Shane Warne and Nasser Hussain’s turn to take on Sky Sports’ weekly NFL predictions… can they repeat Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s Week One success?

Click on the video above to watch Warne and Hussain make their Week Two predictions, with Warne showing the love for Tom Brady and Hussain tipping the Ravens and Saints for the Super Bowl – if he can read his phone!

Sky Sports NFL will be your dedicated channel for NFL coverage through the season – featuring a host of NFL Network programming, a new weekly preview show as well as at least five games a week and NFL Redzone, you won’t miss a moment.

Don’t forget to follow us on skysports.com/nfl, our Twitter account @SkySportsNFL & Sky Sports – on the go!



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