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2020 college football season is on the brink

Brandon Moseley

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A football game at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The NCAA Board of Governors will be meeting Friday in an ad-hoc session to discuss the fate of NCAA-sponsored championships for fall Sports. Canceling the championships for fall sports is the only item on the agenda.

The NCAA really has no power over football bowls and the postseason of Division One Football Bowl Subdivision teams as the NCAA doesn’t own the bowls or the Division One Football Bowl Subdivision playoffs. The NCAA does, however, totally control the playoffs for the Division One Football Championship Subdivision, Division II football and Division III football. If the NCAA Board of Governors votes that it is unsafe to play any of their playoffs, it is likely to send a message that college football itself is unsafe to play this fall and puts pressure on Division One Football Bowl Subdivision teams to follow their lead.

Alabama, Auburn, Troy and UAB play in the Division One Football Bowl Subdivision.

The athletic directors at the Power Five conferences — the SEC, Big Ten, Pac 12, ACC, and Big Twelve — are asking the NCAA Board of Governors not to do this yet. They want more time to see if there is a way to play football and the other fall sports amid the surging coronavirus crisis. Shane Lyons, the athletic director at West Virginia, wrote a letter to the Board of Governors asking them not to cancel the playoffs this week.

“We acknowledge that the path forward will be challenging, and that the virus may ultimately dictate outcomes,” Lyons wrote in the letter. “We are simply requesting that the Board of Governors not make an immediate decision on the outcome of fall championships, so that conferences and schools may have ample latitude to continue to evaluate the viability of playing football this fall.”

The move would not end the seasons of the schools — that decision would still be left to the member institutions — but without a postseason, it would be difficult for schools to continue fielding fall teams.

This football season, like all fall sports, remains in crisis whether the NCAA acts on Friday or not. The Ivy League and the Southwest Athletics Conference, which includes Alabama State and Alabama A&M, have already made the decision to scrap all of their fall sports and play them in the spring instead.

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When asked if the season can be played this fall, NCAA President Mark Emmert told ESPN’s Heather Dinich, “Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”

“I get asked every day if college sports will return this fall. The consensus opinion among our health advisers is significant change must occur for that to happen,” Emmert told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

College football is very important in Alabama.

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Montgomery Quarterback Club board member and former president, Perry Hooper Jr. said, “The board should do everything in its power to save NCAA fall sports, especially football. There is nothing more American than a crisp fall afternoon and College Football.”

“As a former high school football player, and father of three Division I football players and former Head Coach of the Montgomery Quarterback club and current board member, I have witnessed firsthand what the experience of playing football means to players at all levels,” Hooper said. “It would be especially tough for college seniors who would be denied their ‘icing on the cake’ season after playing football most of their academic life if this season is canceled.”

Not playing the 2020 college football season at all, or playing it with no fans in the stands, will come with a significant economic cost, particularly for Lee and Tuscaloosa counties, where 100,000 or more visitors descend on the college towns for eight weekends each fall.

“The economic impact of sports is profound. Hotels, restaurants, and retail generate vast amounts of tax revenue, which allow local economies to benefit from the tourism associated with sporting events,” said economic developer Nicole Jones. “College football is part of our culture. Many of us plan our Saturdays around when Alabama or Auburn play. While the Board of Governors does not have the authority to shut down the college football season per se, choosing to cancel NCAA Championships would make a season difficult, as it could theoretically lead conferences to cancel their games. The board has a challenging decision ahead. COVID-19 is deadly. We are in an unparalleled time in human history. My questions for the board are, can their team devise a plan for folks to safely socially distance while at the championships? Would season ticket holders be willing to forego some games, essentially share the stadium, so more people can attend in a socially distanced environment? No matter what the answer, the decision is costly.”

The Big Ten and PAC 12 have both already voted to play only conference games this year. That move has already cost the University of Alabama its opening day game against the University of Southern California.

If the Board of Governors does not act on Friday, they can look at the situation again at their next official meeting scheduled for Aug. 4.

Auburn University football players report to fall camp Aug. 2 and University of Alabama football players report Aug. 3. The player are currently doing “voluntary” workouts to improve their strength, speed and agility.

Alabama has become a recent hotspot for COVID-19. As of Wednesday, the state has had 70,413 diagnosed cases of coronavirus and 1,325 COVID-19 deaths — including 399 of them in July. 146,185 Americans have already died in the global pandemic.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

Breaking down the six amendments on Alabama’s November ballot

What do the six proposed amendments on Alabama’s November ballot do? We answer your questions here.

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Constitution is believed to be the longest in the world. (STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama voters in the Nov. 3 election will have to decide on whether to add six constitutional amendments to what is already believed to be the longest constitution in the world. 

If approved, three of the amendments won’t actually make substantive changes to state law, however.

To be added to the constitution, the amendments must receive support from a majority of voters.

Amendment 1

Amendment 1 — sponsored by State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston — would “grant the right to vote to ‘only’ those U.S. citizens who meet the requirements.” 

If approved, the change in the state’s constitution would be to replace wording that the constitution grants the right to vote for “every” U.S. citizen who meets the requirements, to it grants the right to vote for “only” those U.S. citizens who meet the requirements. 

The amendment makes no changes to state voting requirements, and it’s already a federal requirement to be a U.S. citizen to vote. Marsh told WBRC that the amendment “sends a message to Washington.” Opponents to Amendment 1 say it could make it easier for the GOP-controlled Legislature to restrict voting rights.

Amendment 2

Amendment 2 processes numerous changes to the state’s judicial system, including a change that would allow Alabama Supreme Court, rather than the Chief Justice, to appoint the Administrative Director of Courts. 

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The amendment would also increase the Judicial Inquiry Commission from nine members to 11 and would  allow Governor, rather than the Lieutenant Governor, to appoint a member of the Court of the Judiciary. 

If approved, it would also prevent automatic disqualification from holding public offices for a judge solely because a complaint was filed with the Judiciary Inquiry Commission. Additionally, it would provide that a judge can be removed from office only by the Court of the Judiciary.

Amendment 3

Amendment 3 would extend the time appointed district and circuit court judges serve. State law now mandates appointed judges serve one year, or until the end of the term of the judge whom they were appointed to replace, whichever is longer.  

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The amendment would allow the appointed judge to serve two years before running to keep their judgeship in an election. 

Amendment 4

Amendment 4 would allow “a rearranged version of the state constitution” to be drafted to “remove racist language,” “remove language that is repeated or no longer applies,”  “combine language related to economic development”  and “combine language that relates to the same county.”

 The rearranged version of the state constitution would have to be drafted by the state Legislature in 2022, according to the amendment, and the new draft wouldn’t become law until approved by a majority of voters.

Amendments 5 and 6

Amendments 5 and 6 relate to Franklin and Lauderdale counties only, and if approved, would add to the state constitution that “a person is not liable for using deadly physical force in self-defense or in the defense of another person on the premises of a church under certain conditions” in both of those counties. 

Alabama already has a “stand your ground” that applies to the use of deadly force in churches, however. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in a Jan. 2 statement, following the West Freeway Church of Christ shooting in White Settlement, Texas, wrote that Alabama law “does not impose a duty to retreat from an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present.”

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Elections

State is prepared for heavy increase in mail-in absentee ballots, Merrill says

The final tally of absentee ballots returned is expected to be between 150,000 and 175,000, Merrill said.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said the state is on track to far exceed its record for highest number of absentee ballots in an election, but he’s confident that his office is prepared for it.

“There’s no reason to be worried about it because, see, I don’t wait ‘til the last minute to make sure that we’re prepared,” Merrill said. 

As of Tuesday, there were 101,092 absentee ballots requested. Of those, 35,184 have been successfully returned. The final tally of absentee ballots returned is expected to be between 150,000 and 175,000, Merrill said.

The highest number on record was roughly 89,000 in the 2012 general election, when President Barack Obama was re-elected, but Republican nominee Mitt Romney won Alabama. The second-highest was about 88,000 in 2016, when President Donald Trump was elected, winning Alabama.

Additional election workers have been hired and more are available should they be needed, Merrill said. His office has provided extra ballot tabulators to ensure that the state’s 68 jurisdictions are able to do a full count on Election Day. Merrill said that all ballots in the state’s possession on Nov. 3 will be counted that day.

He didn’t say whether there are indications that slowdowns in the operations of the U.S. Postal Service might affect voters, but he encouraged anyone planning to vote absentee to request their ballot as soon as possible to avoid last-minute problems.

Voters who plan to cast absentee ballots or who have started that process can check the status of their ballot online

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“Through using our online portal, Alabama voters can check when their absentee ballot was sent out by the county, when their absentee ballot was returned to the county, and whether the ballot was accepted or rejected,” Merrill said.

He stressed that his office is the only authoritative source for accurate and current information about the election. His office has identified issues with mailers from both conservative and liberal groups that include information about voting by mail, Merrill said. In the case of one distributed by the national Democratic Party, he said his office reached out to the Alabama Democratic Party to address erroneous information it had on it.

All voters should be cautious about third-party information, he said, and carefully follow instructions issued by his office.

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For those voting absentee, it’s especially important that they check the boxes on both the ballot application and the ballot that indicates they are voting by mail because they are “ill or infirmed” and can’t make it to their polling place. That option is available to anyone who wants to vote absentee due to concerns about COVID-19.

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National

Shelby meets with Barrett, is “confident” she is the right choice to serve on Supreme Court

“I have no doubt that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court,” Shelby said.

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Richard Shelby, right, meets with Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, left.

United States Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, met with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, on Thursday. Following the meeting, Shelby said he strongly supports Barrett’s nomination, adding that Barrett “will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court.”

“After speaking with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is the right choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” Shelby said. “Judge Barrett is exceptionally qualified for this role and maintains strong conservative values and a deep commitment to our Constitution. I have no doubt that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court.”

“I look forward to supporting Judge Barrett’s nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Shelby continued.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has announced that Barrett will get a vote on the Senate floor. Senate Democrats have objected to the nomination and say it should not happen before the results of the Nov. 3 general election have been decided.

Trump defended his decision to nominate Barrett to the Supreme Court during Tuesday’s presidential debate with Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Elections have consequences, we have the Senate, and we have the White House,” Trump said. “She is outstanding. … We won the election, and we have the right to do it.”

Since her nomination by Trump, Barrett has been making routine visits to Capitol Hill to meet with senators. Many Democratic Senators, following the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, are refusing to meet with Barrett much like Republicans refused to meet with President Barack Obama’s 2016 nominee to the court, Judge Merrick Garland.

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Barrett, if confirmed, will fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett currently serves as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as well as Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Before and while serving on the federal bench, she was a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. Barrett is a devout Catholic and mother of seven.

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Shelby said that Barrett’s excellent academic achievements, legal expertise and judicial record prove that she is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

It is the constitutional responsibility of the U.S. Senate to provide “advice and consent” to the president on all executive nominations, including judges to federal courts, appeals courts and the Supreme Court.

Shelby has served in the Senate since 1987. All current Supreme Court justices and Ginsburg who just died were appointed and confirmed during Shelby’s tenure.

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Governor

Governor issues apology to surviving victim of 1963 Birmingham church bombing

The victims “most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology — an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation,” Ivey wrote.  

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sarah Collins Rudolph

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday sent a written apology to the surviving victim of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and agreed to have the state’s attorneys meet with the survivor’s attorney to discuss their desire for compensation. 

The surviving victim, Sarah Collins Rudolph, and those who died, including Rudolph’s sister, Addie Mae, and Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carole Denise McNair, suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades, Ivey wrote in her letter to Rudolph’s attorney, Ishan Bhaba. 

“For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology — an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation,” Ivey wrote.  

“It would seem to me that beginning these conversations — without prejudice for what any final outcome might produce but with a goal of finding mutual accord — would be a natural extension of my Administration’s ongoing efforts to foster fruitful conversations about the all-too-difficult — and sometimes painful — topic of race, a conversation occurring not only in Alabama but throughout America,” Ivey continued. 

The explosion set off by Klansman on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, that killed the four young Black girls left Rudolph blind in her right eye. Bhaba wrote to Ivey earlier this month and asked on behalf of Rudolph for an apology and compensation for her lifelong injury. Her injury ended her dream of becoming a nurse, and so she’s worked odd jobs throughout her life to survive, Rudolph has said in several news accounts. 

Ivey in her response Wednesday wrote that many would question whether the state was legally responsible for the bombing, but that “the racist, segregationist rhetoric used by some of our leaders during that time was wrong and would be utterly unacceptable in today’s Alabama.” 

The deaths of the young girls came at a time when Alabama politicians were fighting against desegregation of the state’s public schools. Then Alabama Gov. George Wallace in May, just more than a week before the bombings, told The New York Times that “what this country needs is a few first-class funerals.” 

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Twelve years after the bombing, one of the Klansmen responsible was convicted of killing one of the girls and sentenced to life in prison. 

Then-U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, 24 years later, secured convictions of two other Klansmen involved in the bombing. 

Jones, now a U.S. Senator for Alabama, met with Rudolph’s attorneys in December, according to The Montgomery Advertiser, which quoted Jones as saying in a statement at the time that he didn’t feel it was in his place to offer her legal advice. 

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“I did, however, confirm my belief based on my own research for the trials of two of the four Klansmen responsible for the bombing, that the State of Alabama, through George Wallace and others, and the city of Birmingham through Bull Connor and others, engaged in the kind of dog-whistle political rhetoric that promoted violence and led to the bombing,” Jones said in the statement, according to the newspaper.

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