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SEC extends suspension on athletics activities until end of May, ups time limit on virtual film review

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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey previously said the league had a narrow window to hold spring practice. It appears that time frame is now even narrower.

The conference announced on Friday that they have extended their suspension on athletics activities until May 31. Previously that date was up to April 15.

The extension was the result of “public health advisories related to continuing developments associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Already the league has put an axe to their annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla. that normally occurs next month. While Sankey had previously said SEC media days in July are moving forward, those could also be in jeopardy depending on how things go.

Perhaps just as notable for coaches was the conference office bumping film review hours up from two to four per week. Coaches had complained about the limit and led to an NCAA waiver for many conferences.

The NCAA also recently extended their own moratorium on recruiting until May 31. The Southeastern Conference has pretty much been in lockstep with the folks in Indianapolis on those dates.

The good news is that many of the football programs around the South are doing their best with the situation. For example, Kentucky announced their indoor practice facility was being converted to a field hospital.

Anonymous FBS athletic director: ‘If there’s no season, we will be f*****’

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If you didn’t realize how important college football is to an athletic department’s bottom line, this should highlight it.

In the midst of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, some connected to the game of college football are decidedly pessimistic that the upcoming season will be played. Others are expressing cautious optimism. For now, at least.

Brett McMurphy of The Stadium conducted a survey of 130 athletic directors with FBS programs, with 112 of them participating. According to McMurphy, the ADs “were asked to rank their optimism on the upcoming season being played from ‘1’ (will not be played) to ’10’ (definitely will be played).”

Not a single AD gave less than a “5” in response, meaning everyone who responded, at least at this time, feels there’s at least a 50-50 chance the season will go off as planned. A slight majority of respondents (51%) assigned either the numbers seven or eight in McMurphy’s survey. One-quarter of them were decidedly optimistic with either a nine or 10 as a response. Most of that optimism was on the part of Group of Five programs that, already financially reeling from the distilled NCAA’s revenue distribution last month, desperately need a college football season to be played.

If the college football season is to start on time — the first games are scheduled for Aug. 29 — what would be the absolute latest teams could start reconvening and prepping for the 2020 campaign? The answer you get depends on the individual you ask. Some would say early June at the absolute latest. Others have said the middle of July.

So, what if the season is canceled? Completely?

“If there’s no season, we will be f*****,” an anonymous AD told McMurphy.

A tweet from Ross Dellenger of SI.com very plainly illustrates how reliant athletic departments are on revenue from college football.

Suffice to say, if the 2020 college football season is completely wiped out, non-revenue sports will be cut. Lots of them will be shuttered, more than likely.

The good news, such as it is, is that the powers-that-be in the sport will go to great lengths to save the 2020 college football season. In fact, one report earlier today suggested that the season could start as late as January of next year. How that would work with players who are eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft would have to be worked out, as would myriad other issues.

While it’s way too early to form a concrete opinion, there’s little doubt that all connected to the sport will exhaust every option to save the 2020 college football season. And, if the season is canceled? It’ll mean we all have a helluva lot more to worry about than sports.

SEC to begin allowing virtual instruction next week

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The SEC is about to allow coaches to use remote tools to instruct their players, according to a report from Auburn Undercover on Friday.

Citing a memo sent to SEC athletic departments, Auburn Undercover says the new policy will go into effect beginning on Monday, March 30. According to the memo, coaching staff members will be allowed to provide “technical or tactical instruction” to players. Strength and conditioning coaches may still provide players with specific workouts to do on heir own, but no coaches may observe the players while working out.

In these times, having any kind of chance to interact with players is important, even if it must be done through a computer. It’s better than nothing, after all. And while it may not be a perfect substitute for spring football practices, it at least keeps the lines of communication within the program more open.

As previously reported, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was quoted in a radio interview as having a concern about the Big 12 not allowing coaches to make use of their virtual options the way coaches in the ACC have. Riley noted players in the ACC are able to receive video instruction and training gear through the mail. The Big 12 may change their policies in the next week to be more accommodating for coaches and players in a similar fashion to what the SEC is doing.

Kirk Herbstreit would be ‘shocked’ if college football is played this fall

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No college football this fall?  The drumbeat for such a possibility grows louder by the day.

In the midst of the growing coronavirus pandemic, Mack Brown earlier this week expressed concern about whether or not the college football season would be played as scheduled.  Whether it would be a partial season.  Or no season at all.

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

“The biggest problem is you’re not sure when it ends, and we can’t get those answers at this point.”

Compared to one prominent college football personality, Brown is downright optimistic.

During a radio interview Thursday night, Kirk Herbstreit was asked about the prospects of teams taking the fall this season.  According to the ESPN television personality, he would be “shocked” if it happened.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit stated, by way of TMZ.com.

“Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

Because of the cancellation of March Madness, schools saw their revenue distribution from the NCAA drastically diminished.  That is expected to take a heavy toll on non-FBS schools.  If the college football season were to be canceled?  That would severely impact FBS schools, especially those in the Group of Five.

Woody Widenhofer, former Missouri and Vanderbilt coach, dies at 77

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Woody Widenhofer, a former head coach of Missouri and Vanderbilt as credited as one of the architects of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain defense, passed away on Sunday, March 22. He was 77.

Widenhofer was a native of Pennsylvania and played linebacker for Missouri from 1961 through 1964. He jumped into coaching in 1969 as a defensive line coach at Michigan State. Following two seasons with the Spartans, Widenhofer was named the linebackers coach at Eastern Michigan in 1971 and continued in that role for Minnesota in 1972. After one season with Minnesota, Widenhofer made the jump to the NFL as a linebacker coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1973, where he was part of a coaching staff that helped forge one of the all-time great defenses in NFL history that led to four Super Bowl titles. Widenhofer was later promoted to defensive coordinator of the Steelers after the 1978 season.

Widenhofer was the head coach of the USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws in 1984 before returning to his alma mater to be the head coach of Missouri in 1985. Unfortunately, a return to Missouri was not so kind as a head coach. Widenhofer’s Tigers went 12-33-1 in four seasons, resulting in a head coaching change and Widenhofer returning to the NFL to coach as a defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.

Widenhifer later returned to college football, first as a defensive coordinator for Vanderbilt in 1995 and two years later as the head coach of the program. Widenhofer resigned as head coach of the Commodores in 2001 with a 15-40 record with the program, but some notable defensive performances by the overmatched program in the SEC.

Widenhofer coached two seasons as a defensive coordinator for Southeastern Louisiana in 2003 and 2004, and three more for New Mexico State from 2005 through 2007.