A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Louisville, ACC prepared to play football without member schools that choose to cancel season

By Russ Brown
Kentucky Today

While the college football season remains in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic, speculation about the eventual outcome covers the entire field. Will it start on time in September? Be delayed until October? November? How about January? Will there be a shortened season? Bowl games in May?

Reports have also surfaced that several of the Atlantic Coast Conference schools — not Louisville — have informed ACC officials that they may cancel their football schedule even if the league decides to play in one form or another.

UofL vice president for athletics Vince Tyra has heard all the speculation, and he is only relatively certain about one thing.

Vince Tyra

“The (ACC) has already talked about, if every school wasn’t ready to go, the league would likely go without them,” he said during a teleconference Wednesday. “We have 15 football playing schools in our conference, with Notre Dame. I think everybody’s got their head around all the different possibilities and made notes out there that if 12 or 14 are ready to go and one or two aren’t, we’ll go on and play.”

ACC commissioner John Swofford told Brett McMurphy of The Stadium that, as Tyra noted, the league would probably play even without some of its members and he indicated that he supports that scenario.

“I suspect if the majority of schools can play, then they should play,” Swofford said. “It’s on our radar. We’ll cross that bridge later. Hopefully, we won’t be in that situation.”

Syracuse athletics director John Wildhack said during a recent teleconference with the media that the ACC has had no conversations about canceling the season.

Wildhack is on a subcommittee the ACC put together to look at scenarios for the upcoming season. Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, Florida State coach Mike Norvell, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, athletic directors Dan Radakovich (Clemson), Boo Corrigan (NC State) and Blake James (Miami), and ACC senior associate commissioner for football Michael Strickland are also on the subcommittee.

“We want to play,” Wildhack said. “We have not, as a conference, had any discussions in terms of not playing. We plan to play. What we don’t know is when we’re going to start and what form or what format we’re going to start. Do you play with fans, do you not play with fans? So much is unknown, but the ADs and the conference office, we meet twice a week, and there’s not been one second of conversation about not having a football season in some way, shape or form.”

Of course, the ideal scenario is to start the season on time with all 14 ACC teams, plus Notre Dame, competing. But heading into the third month of a nationwide shutdown, there are still more questions than answers. When will governors open states, when will university presidents open campuses, when will it be safe to resume training, could there be games without fans, or would attendance just be limited for social distancing?

Louisville’s Scott Satterfield was ACC Coach of the Year.

“You can see it’s a lot of speculation,” Tyra said. “I think in the end it’s nice that a lot of us ADs think we have a big voice in this. But in the end, it’s people that are a lot sharper than us in the medical field. Obviously, there are going to be some medical officials that make those calls.

“All we can do is just prepare for dates and be prepared for when we can, one, bring athletes back on campus; and two, when they might say, ‘Let’s go.’ It’s fun to talk about hypotheticals. But in reality, that decision is further away than closer. I don’t see it coming in a week or two. Probably not even the next 30 days. I think all we can do right now as a conference and in college sports is just prepare for a return to play, which we’ve been doing a lot of.”

Tyra also noted that the NCAA is at the mercy of local and state governments and individual universities within conferences, who will make decisions based on the situation in their various locations.

“I think what conferences do, there’s a lot of discretion at the conference and school level and the NCAA doesn’t control states,” he said. “States set their rules around what’s going to happen in terms of what you can do returning to campus and opening facilities and things like that.

“We’re watching what’s going on in local and state government here. We’ll have our kids back on campus as soon as we get the go-ahead and as soon as we think we’re ready and have as much precautions in place as we need. It won’t be the NCAA who tells us.”

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