The Masters to November? This might be the biggest fall sports season ever
My last year of college at the University of Florida, a group of eight fine gentlemen and myself drove an RV from Florida to Las Vegas for spring break. After nearly 10 hours of driving on the first day, we pulled into New Orleans for the first stop. I’m pretty sure the RV hadn’t even come to a complete stop before the entire group of amped up, mildly intoxicated fellas burst out of the RV and assumed an all-out sprint toward Bourbon Street. The party was on.
That’s how I picture the American sports fan greeting the return of major sports in this country, and it’s possible that this fall might be bigger than ever.
With news that The Masters is officially targeting a rescheduled date of November 9-15, 2020, we can start to speculate what a return to semi-normal sports consumption might look like later this year. Sure, there’s a very real chance that either no fans or limited fans fill the college football cathedrals around the country during game days, but at this point, does it really matter? Being able to sit down with friends and family in the confines of your living room, cook up some game day food, and put on 12 straight hours of college football will be incredible regardless of whether there are fans in the stadium.
Let’s be clear. There are still many unknowns and things that have to go right for sports to return this fall. Health officials have to get on the offensive against the coronavirus, rather than scrambling to react to every new headline. By advancing therapeutics, having social distancing put a dent in the immediate spread and by ramping up the medical infrastructure to react more quickly to contain future hotspots, things can get back to normal … at least in phases.
It’s possible that a full fall season of college football as we typically know it doesn’t come back until 2021. By full fall season, I mean tailgating, 100,000+ jammed into Tiger Stadium, etc. Bill Gates in a recent interview with CBS noted that large scale events likely don’t return until a vaccine is available, but that doesn’t mean no football. That just means no football with 100,000 fans present. And this fall, that’s just fine with me. Just give me football.
Managing the health of a group of 100 players, coaches and other staff is a much different ball game than removing the concern over 100,000 people grouped together in a steamy stadium. If I had to bet, I’d wager that the college football season is delayed by a few weeks or a month, to allow coaching staffs time to get players ready for a football season. I’d say that there’s a slight chance that the regular season is reduced. Could we see a 10-game season? It’s very possible. Note that if such a change were to materialize, the small programs that rely on major conference “cupcake” games for huge paydays would likely be the hardest hit.
But let’s get back to The Masters.
Statement from Chairman Ridley:
"We have identified Nov 9-15 as the intended dates to host the 2020 Masters. We hope the anticipation of staging the Tournament brings a moment of joy to the Augusta community and those who love the game."
— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 6, 2020
It’ll be quite interesting to see The Masters golf tournament go head-to-head with football. I’m all for it. In fact, I’d like to see college football lean into it. Perhaps College GameDay broadcasts from Augusta? Or maybe players like Justin Thomas rock some houndstooth during the Saturday round to support his team on gameday.
Satuday, Nov. 14, 2020 has got interesting ramifications for CBS, which owns the broadcast rights to The Masters and the SEC game of the week. Will this be the biggest sports day in the history of CBS? Probably not, but wow, what a day! Can we get Verne Lundquist to call some plays during the SEC football game from the tower on the 16th green at Augusta? This is the crossover event we’ve been waiting for!
Despite pulling back from most broadcasting duties, Verne continues to climb that tower each year. Hell, he might be buried up in that tower considering the incredible calls he’s made from it over the years:
In all likelihood, CBS will end up moving its SEC football game to the evening to run after The Masters broadcast ends (assuming nothing in the contract prevents them from doing so). Looking at the SEC football schedule for the day (assuming it doesn’t get modified), some notable matchups might be Missouri at Florida, Tennessee at Georgia or South Carolina at LSU. But frankly, does it matter?
All I know is that when sports are back, we’re going to embrace them like never before. Like many things in life, sometimes it takes things getting taken away or at least have the risk of being taken away, to fully appreciate and embrace what we’ve taken for granted. When college football is back, millions of fans are going to be all-in like never before. They’re going to jump off that still-moving RV and sprint toward it like never before.
And it’s possible that this fall brings more of our favorite sports jammed together like never before. I can’t wait.