Saturday Football: Mike Gundy, Tua's durability and fans vs. no fans
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Good morning and happy Monday! We hope you had a great Easter Sunday and are recharged for another long week of lockdown. The debate about when it will be safe to resume sports continues, and it doesn’t appear it is any closer to being finalized. That’s to be expected, though, since it is only April.
Still, there are some important stories to talk about today, from some comments made by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy to former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s injury history. We’ll also give you some good reads to get you through the week and play some trivia. Let’s get started!
MIKE GUNDY COMMENTS
Mike Gundy made some controversial comments last week. Was his apology sufficient?
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has never been afraid to speak his mind. Sometimes, that leads to some incredible interviews (“I’m a man! I’m 40!”). Other times, that tendency gets him in trouble. The latter is what happened last week.
So, what did Gundy say and what has been the reaction to it? Let’s break down the latest news coming from the Oklahoma State coach:
- As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, it is unclear when sports will resume. Last week, Gundy said he’d like to get the Cowboy players back on campus and back in action on the football field by May 1. He said the young college athletes are healthier than most people, so the risk of severe coronavirus complications is lesser for them. NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said there’s no date set for the return of football.
- That drew widespread criticism from media members and some fans. After Gundy’s comments, USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken wrote a scathing column, saying Gundy’s words show he cares more about making money than for the health of his players. As the backlash against Gundy continued into the latter part of the week, SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum also ripped into the Oklahoma State coach, saying he’s having a worse week than Mike Leach or Dabo Swinney (other coaches who have created controversy recently). “(T)here’s not a dumber, more out-of-touch or tone deaf figure in college sports that can top Mike Gundy,” Finebaum said.
- Finally, on Saturday, Gundy issued an apology for his statements. However, the apology was short and only apologized for offending anyone. Gundy said, “It was never my intention to offend anyone, and I apologize.” Many media members didn’t find that issued statement to be very sincere.
It doesn’t look like football will be back by May 1, or even mid-May, like Gundy wants. When will it return? That’s a question no one knows the answer to yet. There’s still a lot that must be done, but there is some cautious optimism among many experts that the season will be played at some point.
- There have been some prominent fake injuries in recent years. Heading into the 2020 season, the NCAA would like to address those fake injuries that are often used to slow down fast-paced offenses. Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara has an interesting proposal for how to discourage those disingenuous stoppages in play.
- The COVID-19 outbreak might make handshakes a thing of the past. So, if that is the case, let’s remember some iconic Big Ten handshakes (or lack thereof). Saturday Tradition’s Dustin Schutte looks back at some of his favorite handshake memories from Big Ten action.
- College athletic departments depend on football to make money. This has been true since the beginning of college sports, even dating back to the 1800s. Banner Society’s Alex Kirshner took a look back at how football became the golden goose for other college sports.
- Every year, some assistants are promoted to the head coaching ranks. There are sure to be more assistants who make the jump to head coach following the 2020 season. Who will they be? Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon broke down 10 potential candidates who could be in line for the promotion.
Tua Tagovailoa defended himself against an “injury-prone” label. Can he hold up at the NFL level?
When the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 23, former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa is expected to hear his name called pretty quickly. Tagovailoa could go as high as No. 1 overall (though former LSU QB Joe Burrow is currently projected at No. 1), and will almost certainly be off the board by the time the No. 7 pick comes along.
Still, concerns about his injury history surfaced again this week. So, is Tagovailoa “injury-prone” or just the victim of bad luck? Let’s take a look at the discussion around the talented quarterback’s health:
- Former NFL GM Mike Lombardi got the discussion started again. On a podcast this week, Lombardi said he’s heard a couple of NFL teams have “flunked” Tagovailoa during their grading process. “It’s not just his hip,” Lombardi said. “It’s his ankle. It’s his wrist. He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year. … He’s brittle. He is brittle. You can’t deny it. He’s a really good player.”
- However, Tagovailoa himself disagrees with that assessment. In comments made to former Alabama OC Mike Locksley, Tagovailoa defended his durability. “I’m not playing badminton,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m not on the swim team. This is a physical sport. You’re gonna get hurt. That just comes with it. It’s just very unfortunate I got hurt each season. It’s a part of the game. It’s a contact sport. I can only control what I can control. I can’t control that.”
- Tagovailoa has many supporters in the media, as well. Former NFL doctor David Chao took to Twitter to explain why calling Tagovailoa “injury-prone” is foolish in this lengthy thread. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL QB himself, said he actually thinks Tagovailoa doesn’t get enough credit for the toughness he’s shown at Alabama. Then there’s Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Swinney said he’s a huge fan of Tua’s and wouldn’t pass on him at the draft.
Recently, some of Tagovailoa’s makeshift Pro Day footage made its way online. The former Alabama star looks pretty smooth in the videos. Will NFL teams be convinced? We’ll find out if he goes in the top 5 or takes a bit of a tumble on April 23.
JUST FOR FUN
Today, let’s do another matching game. Can you match the FBS schools to the correct bird nickname? See how many you get right below:
- Bowling Green
- Georgia Southern
- Miami (Ohio)
- A: WarHawks
- B: Roadrunners
- C: Eagles
- D: Falcons
- E: RedHawks
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
FANS VS. NO FANS
Will the 2020 college football season be played this fall? If so, will fans be allowed to attend?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate headlines across the globe, chances are the picture above hits you both with a cringe for the people gathering so closely together and a longing to get back to the days when crowds were things that were allowed to happen. Currently, all major sports are on hiatus, and it isn’t clear when they’ll return.
If the 2020 college football season does start on time, there’s a chance no fans will be allowed to attend. Would we as a society rather have games played with no fans or wait until stadiums can be safely filled again? Let’s take a look at what’s being said about that topic:
- A recent poll of people by Seton Hall reignited this discussion. The poll had a small sample size of only 762 people, but 72% of respondents (and 61% of those who identified as sports fans) said they’d only consider going to a game if a coronavirus vaccine is discovered.
- Ohio State AD Gene Smith shared his thoughts on the matter. Recently, Smith said it’s strange to think that players would be able to safely gather on a field if fans can’t gather in the stands. “I struggle with that concept,” Smith said on a conference call with reporters. “When I first heard that, I said, ‘OK, that could work.’ But I figured if we don’t have fans in the stands, we’ve determined it’s not safe for them in a gathering environment. So why would it be safe for the players?” Another issue raised by a Texas A&M staffer is about injuries. “If you try to rush (a return to the field) too much, that increases injury rates and puts our student-athletes at risk,” A&M director of athletic training Dan Jacobi said. “If we don’t do enough to get them ready, that leaves them predisposed to more injuries in the season.”
- Legendary coach Steve Spurrier thinks we should wait for fans. He made a passionate case on “The Paul Finebaum Show” recently for why having fans is so important. “Right now, I think that’s what we’re all hoping and praying that colleges can get 3-4 weeks of preseason and then, hopefully, we’ve gotta have fans in the stands,” the Head Ball Coach said. “I don’t know how you play college football without the fans. They make it what it is. To me, that’s why it’s the greatest sport in the world. The fans talk about it year-round.”
- In a recent SDS Roundtable discussion, we all were in agreement. Our Roundtable panel agreed that if you can safely gather players together with no risk to their health, fans are a secondary concern. News editor Michael Bratton made a strong point about college football being driven by TV revenue anyway. “Old-timers will hate to hear this, but packed stadiums are no longer necessary in sports. There’s a reason we keep adding bowl games despite the fact very few draw large crowds. The main source of revenue is television and the sport is driven because it’s an outstanding television product.”
While it would definitely be weird to have football without fans, if the experts and doctors say it’s safe to play games in front of empty stadiums, that’s probably what FBS schools will decide to do. Football revenue is huge for athletic departments across the country, so as soon as they get the green light from the experts, it’ll be game on, whether fans are able to attend or not.
Here are the answers to today’s school-bird mascot matching game:
1D — Bowling Green Falcons
2C — Georgia Southern Eagles
3A — Louisiana-Monroe WarHawks
4E — Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
5B — UTSA Roadrunners
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The governors of the states and mayors are going to be the ones who tell you whether we can do it because the NCAA can say, ‘Hey, you guys are all going back’ and if (California) Governor (Gavin) Newsom says, ‘We’re not going back’ then we’re not going back. I’m not well-versed in infectious diseases. I’ll leave that to the Dr. Faucis of the world, who I’ve got a lot of faith in. When I listen to him talk, it seems like he’s got a pretty good grasp of it, so when he says ‘Go,’ we’ll go.”
– UCLA coach Chip Kelly had some insightful thoughts on who really has the power to bring sports back when things are safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.
TWEET OF THE DAY
The Tulane mascot won Twitter on Easter Sunday with this perfect edit. The wave has Easter Bunny ears and a white top of his head. Why is he so angry at that egg? We may never know.