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USC v. Bama game appears unlikely

Bryant-Denny Stadium during an Alabama football game.

Wednesday, Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd reported that the University of Southern California football team will not play the University of Alabama on September 5 as had previously been scheduled.

Cowherd said on Twitter Tuesday that he was “told by two people I trust — USC v Alabama isn’t happening. Trojans can’t even practice in LA potentially for several months. This is why Bama already talking to other possible opponents. Not official but understood. Feeling now that Pac 12 football in spring — much more likely.”

The move comes after California Governor Gavin Newsome (D) extended his ban on non-work gatherings of more than ten people through August. This means that a USC team that already was the preseason underdog to Alabama, would have to play the Tide with just four days of practice – a 21 practice day advantage for Nick Saban (248-65-1 with five national championships). USC head football Coach Todd Helton (40-22 with 0 national championships) is not eager to play the Tide after just four practices.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Paul Finebaum reported that Alabama athletics officials are in back channel negotiations with Texas Christian University if USC can’t make the game. TCU faces the same predicament with their scheduled game with the University of California.

The California University System has already announced that there will be no students on campus this fall and the rest of the PAC-12 may follow. Cowherd is reporting that if there is a PAC-12 college football season in 2020 they may play only ten or eleven conference games, likely with no fans in the stands. The start of their football season may be delayed or even played starting in January.

On Thursday, ESPN reported that Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne told the NCAA’s football oversight committee that every school should be able to set their own policies as to when to start football this fall.

“Our hope and plan right now is to play this fall with a full schedule and a full stadium,” Byrne told ESPN’s Laura Rutledge. “We will adjust if we need to, and based off of what the medical experts’ guidance we get from them. If that happens, I know there’s already been some stories out there from the NFL such (as) what a reduced capacity could look like to do social distancing at six feet apart. It would be a dramatic reduction in what your attendance would be.”

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“We’re fortunate right now, we still have that opportunity to give it some time to see where we go with this and see where testing develops, see where the vaccines develop, see what therapeutic drugs develop,” Byrne said. “Coach Saban and I have had a number of discussions about it: what do we need for the safety of our kids to be able to come back and be ready, be football ready at the SEC level? That’s four at the very minimum but very likely six weeks of preparation to get ready. And so how you pull that all together when that comes to mid-July to late-July, we’re gonna have to have some decisions made on what that looks like.”

Football is by far the largest revenue generator for college athletics programs. The schools already lost all of their NCAA basketball season revenue and the loss of a football season would have tremendous impacts, not just on football, but across the whole spectrum of college athletics.

College football also has an enormous economic impact for college towns like Tuscaloosa and Auburn. The question for both the schools and for college towns is there a way for college football and the coronavirus to coexist this year? As of press time, COVID-19, the illness causes by the novel strain of the coronavirus, has killed 84,243 Americans.

(Original reporting by Fox Sports and ESPN contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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