First downs and second guesses in a fireworks-free zone (I have a dog):
The prospects of Nebraska playing a 12-game season this fall look extremely doubtful.
South Dakota State Athletic Director Justin Sell told CBS Sports last week that SDSU athletics is not testing for the coronavirus — for financial reasons.
No tests, no football, no way. And no South Dakota State at Nebraska game on Sept. 19.
It’s a Catch-22 for schools like SDSU, which need the money from playing at Nebraska. But sorry, that’s a risk nobody should have to take.
It could be a choppy football season. But here’s my take: That might be a good thing for Nebraska.
I see no reason why Nebraska, with diligent and active testing by its staff, can’t have football practice this fall. How many games will be played? At this point, with opponents from 10 different states — with varying degrees of testing and positive tests — it feels like six or seven games might be a good year in 2020.
That would not be a bad thing for Scott Frost.
A football season that is essentially a three- to four-month spring — with five or six games thrown in — could be just what the doctor ordered. And I don’t mean Dr. Fauci.
Frost’s Nebraska in Year Three should be improved. But it’s not ready to win the West or even win at Wisconsin — though it would be intriguing to play in an empty Camp Randall Stadium with no jumping around.
The goal this year would be to make a bowl game. But what if there are no bowls?
Frost, his staff and team are competitors. They want to tee it up and take their shot — for 12 games.
But this is a program still in the developmental stages. It needs to grow depth and identify playmakers. It needs to correct mistakes and bad habits. It doesn’t need the pressure of a fan base asking, “When’s he going to do something?”
It’s still too soon to know what this season will be like. If it’s a shortened hybrid of normality, a lot of coaches and programs are going to be upset. Meanwhile, Nebraska would quietly grow.
» I have a challenge for Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook: Use all your swag, experience and pull to get the season pushed to next spring.
And then let’s keep it there.
I’m certainly not bold enough to predict the pandemic will be over a year from now. But I’ll guess that next spring figures to be less disruptive than this fall for an indoor sport.
Especially when there’s no telling how the pandemic will react to flu season kicking up in November and surging into December — when all the big volleyball moments happen.
A volleyball season typically begins in late August and ends in mid-December. Tweak it to begin in late February and end in late May or early June.
That would put the NCAA final four — the one scheduled for Omaha in December — in May. We would have to juggle that to not bump up against the Big Ten baseball tournament — but more on that event’s likelihood in a moment.
Imagine Omaha hosting the NCAA volleyball final four a week or two before the College World Series. Sounds like a winner.
Oh yes, the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials are right before the 2021 CWS. We’ll make it all work. That’s what we do.
The point is, women’s volleyball is a perfect fit for the spring. Some see it as a natural complement to football in the fall. But imagine the ladies dominating the sports scene — at the very least standing side-by-side with college baseball.
And imagine women’s volleyball matches covering the TV landscape in the spring.
This has been Cook’s dream. And lo and behold, the pandemic might give the legend an opening to make that dream come true.
» One of the events we missed that we didn’t say much about this spring was the Big Ten baseball tournament. I’m wondering if we’ll get it next year.
At least one conference has already canceled next year’s postseason baseball tournament as a cost-saving measure. While Big Ten athletic departments are never lacking for money, lack of fans in football stadiums and basketball arenas this year could put a crimp in that style. Some things might have to go.
A college baseball tourney — that might get one or two bubble teams into the NCAA tournament — could be on the chopping block.
Stay tuned on the future. If Michigan coach Erik Bakich’s plan to move the college baseball season back one month gets passed, there’s also a movement to add a third weekend to the NCAA baseball tournament. That would mean three rounds of two-team regionals with a best-of-three format. That would be preferable to coaches over the four-team pitching marathon weekends.
It would also provide more schools a chance to host a regional — like Nebraska and Creighton.
That extra round would replace the conference baseball tourney. As much fun as they can be, they also wear down pitching arms and don’t really mean that much.
If the folks at MECA have to lose a league tourney, I’m sure they would be okay with a Creighton NCAA regional in its place.
Food for thought — at a time when we’re starving for action.
» Could Omaha be a hub for NAIA events? If Josh Todd has his way, yes.
Todd, the executive director of the Omaha Sports Commission, told me recently that he’s got NAIA and NCAA Division II championships on his radar.
Todd says the commission has put in bids to host the NCAA Division II wrestling and softball championships. The wrestling would take place at Baxter Arena with UNK as the host.
Meanwhile, Omaha was set to host the NAIA hoops tournament last March before the pandemic. The NAIA basketball finals remain in Kansas City, but the tournament is now played over various regionals. Todd would like Omaha to be a regular on the NAIA rotation.
“I think we can be an NAIA hub,” said Todd, who played football at Fort Hays State in Kansas. “I don’t know why we never bothered bidding on these NAIA national events.”
It’s an interesting angle. There are several NAIA schools in and around the Omaha and eastern Nebraska area. But would Omaha fans show up to watch NAIA when they are used to Big East, Big Ten and Duke vs. Kansas?
If Todd has his way, we’re going to find out.
» One more and I’m outta here: Tough week for the UNO athletic family, losing both Chris Gadsden and Micky Gehringer. Both were legends of the diamond in their own way. They’ll be missed.