Red All Over: Cancelling football made sense, but Pac-12 basketball?

Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium is shown before the start of the NCAA college football game against UCLA Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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I would love to be able to tell you all that I am genuinely surprised that we are in this position, with no fall football in the Pac-12 and no Pac-12 sports of any kind until at least Jan. 1.

I’m not going to tell you all that, because that would be very disingenuous. Instead, I’m here to say that, unfortunately, I am not surprised at all, and I have months and months of writing and reporting as to why.

From the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt like getting everything in line to play football in the fall, regardless of an on-time start, was going to be a heavy lift, and it was. The virus’ spread was going to have to improve dramatically in all Pac-12 strongholds, general testing measures were going to have to improve, positive test percentages would have to drop, and, well, not nearly enough of that has occurred. At least, not to the point where the Pac-12 felt comfortable playing football.

I feel like I’m in the minority when I say I have no problem with the Pac-12 pulling the plug on football when it did on Aug. 11. The league listened to medical professionals, it erred on the side of caution and, most importantly, it offered full transparency to the public as to how and why it decided what it decided.

For what it’s worth, I do think the Pac-12 pulled the trigger on postponing basketball to at least Jan. 1 way too early, but we’ll get into that later in this newsletter.

So, settle in Utah fans. It’s going to be a long, lonely fall in Salt Lake City. No football, no game weekends, no tailgating outside Rice-Eccles Stadium, no watch parties at home or at the bar, no return to any semblance of real fall normalcy. Meanwhile, the athletic department gets to deal with the fallout, namely losses of at least $50 million if football doesn’t get played during this fiscal year.

Whether or not a winter or spring football season happens, or is even feasible, remains to be seen.

I just hope I’m not sitting here around New Year’s telling you “I told you so” again.

More Utes/Pac-12/NCAA thoughts

• It’s been quite a few months at the University of Utah in the middle of the pandemic. Tell me if I’m missing anything…….***Deep breath***......Matt Van Komen transfers, Timmy Allen and Both Gach declare for the NBA Draft, Gach later transfers. Caleb Lohner seeks and receives a National Letter of Intent release. The Morgan Scalley investigation, in which it is revealed he had a head coach-in-waiting tag, which Mark Harlan has now pulled. With Gach and Lohner out, Larry Krystkowiak signs a high-scoring JUCO guard from a lightly-regarded conference, Jordan Kellier, and a Dutch wing planning to major in pre-med, Norbert Thellisen. Meanwhile, fall sports are postponed………***whew***

• The Pac-12 had plenty of time to consider its options on the basketball side of things and did not need to ax November and December on Aug. 11. There are now a lot more questions than answers, but here’s one I have been harping on. If the rest of the Power Five winds up playing non-conference and conference games to produce something resembling a full resume, how does the NCAA Tournament selection committee judge Pac-12 teams who will have only played a still-to-be-determined number of league games?

• If the Pac-12 plays winter or spring football, and the NFL Draft remains in its late-April slot, why would anyone with NFL aspirations play the college season and risk injury? We are already seeing NFL Draft defections around the country in the middle of all this decision making, and at some point, those defections could come to Salt Lake City.

• I think the bubble concept to get college basketball played is feasible, but decision makers are going to have to loosen their grip on the facade of amateurism as it pertains to student athletes. For what it’s worth, folks around the Pac-12, including Utah athletic director Mark Harlan, have not sounded jazzed about a bubble concept. A series of weekend-long pods, as outlined by Jon Wilner of The Mercury News last week, seems more amenable.

• The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday recommended a 12-hour week for football teams playing games this fall. This is armchair quarterbacking, but I don’t see that appeasing anyone. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 will play in the fall, but everyone can only work out 12 hours per week with no tackling to boot? What Pac-12 or Big Ten coaching staff is OK with that?

• If the Pac-12 plays basketball this winter, either UCLA or Arizona State is the preseason favorite, but I remain bullish that Utah can be a factor in the 5-6 range among the 12 teams. To that end, either Pelle Larsson or Ian Martinez need to emerge as a Day One factor in Larry Krystkowiak’s rotation, and Timmy Allen’s return for his junior season was absolutely critical after he led the team in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore.

• If there is something even remotely resembling a regular season in college basketball, there is going to be an NCAA Tournament in 2021. Take that to the bank.

• The next University of Utah sporting event I cover will be ____________?

Random musings

• The NBA playoffs kicking off in the middle of August has been a lot of fun this week. Bonus points for morning tip-offs, which has a real early-round NCAA Tournament vibe to it.

• Someone, somewhere should erect a statue of Fernando Titis Jr., who is awesome.

• It is uncomfortably hot in Sugar House. When does fall start around here?

• Keep wearing a mask, keep social distancing, keep not being stupid so we can get back to normal, or at least normal-ish.