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Jumbo Package: Decisions loom as ACC, SEC presidents meet Wednesday

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NCAA Football: Alabama at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. It is the last week of July, which means that the time for big decisions on football is upon us. The ACC may have some clarity as soon as Wednesday, when Tony Barnhart says that schedules may be passed out, assuming the university presidents sign off on the season.

**—The current 12-game schedule which will start on Sept. 5. That is considered to be the least likely scenario.

**—A schedule of 10 conference games and one non-conference game, which would move the start of the season to Sept. 12. This one would provide the most income from its television partners.

**—A schedule of eight conference games plus one non-conference game with a start date of around Sept. 26. This gives schools more flexibility to move games if necessary.

The schedule model the coaches receive will not have the dates or times for the games, according to the source.

I’ll let you read those three choices to figure out which is most likely, and why it’s the second one. Of course, that also happens to be the one that would allow four ACC schools to play their in-state rivals from the SEC.

As Christopher Walsh notes, the SEC has a meeting this week as well but may not be as quick to act.

Although the SEC is the most powerful conference, don’t expect a rush to announce anything. Rather, similar to Alabama waiting until hours before its first practice to cancel spring workouts, look for the league to drag things as long as it can before making any major decisions about football.

That would be the end of next week, Aug. 7, when fall practices are due to open.

A lot can happen before then, and most of them bad. For example, the Florida Marlins had a coronavirus outbreak over the weekend. The NBA is investigating whether NBA players left the bubble to go to a strip club.

The strip club, eh? Clearly those rich young men would be sitting at home and social distancing if nobody let them play basketball.

As Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register notes, the Big Ten and Big 12 are going about things a bit differently.

On Saturday, Kansas added Southern Illinois to replace the New Hampshire game, which was lost when the Colonial League decided not to play football and the Wildcats chose not to seek an independent schedule. The Salukis originally were scheduled to play at Wisconsin, which was scratched with the Big Ten’s earlier scheduling decision.

Oklahoma and Kansas have each moved their openers up to August 29 in order to allow a week in between the first and second games. Not a bad thought. The varying approaches to positive case counts couldn’t be more clear when you read about Rutgers and Michigan State.

The program has had 10 total positive tests since returning to campus on June 15.

The school, which reportedly had not been publicizing its testing results prior to Saturday, said it would “work diligently with Rutgers medical experts, and state and local officials” to determine the next steps.

On Friday, Michigan State, which is also in the Big Ten, said it would quarantine or self-isolate its entire football team after a second staff member and one athlete tested positive for COVID-19.

While we don’t know exact numbers, we do know that LSU, Alabama, and Clemson have all had significantly higher numbers than that without quarantining the whole football team. Once again, you may as well cancel the season if that’s how you plan to deal with positives.

Meanwhile, a few coaches at the high school and college level are trying to get the point across that the players are at no greater risk of the virus playing ball than doing the other things they would be doing.

“Our teams have done everything possible to abide by regulations and do what was asked of them to keep from spreading this virus,” said Houston Academy veteran coach Jamie Riggs, who has won 313 games in 33 years.

“If everyone complied as much as the AHSAA teams, we would have a much better situation in our state. Students are much better off involved in athletics than they will be on their own with nothing to do. Anyone who thinks that high school students are going to sit at home because of the virus and not congregate together either doesn’t have children or isn’t living in the real world.”

On the other hand, Nebraska coach Scott Frost earlier this month made a key point that unfortunately didn’t pick up the sort of steam nationally that I anticipated. Even if players don’t get to play in games this fall, he said, there’s still a sizable risk of many of them getting the virus. By removing football from players’ lives, he said, it largely eliminates the structure and safeguards that NU (and presumably other universities) provides at a high level.

Just seems like common sense to me, but your mileage may vary. Cecil Hurt discusses the financial impact of playing without fans.

Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne, who is acutely aware of those issues and the growing time urgency for ticket policy information for UA fans, responded to The Tuscaloosa News’ questions on a timeline on Saturday.

“Nothing is finalized on capacity,” Byrne said in a text message. “(We are) hoping to announce that in a week or two. We have multiple ticket plans put together depending on capacity.”

Things will probably move quickly as soon as the Southeastern Conference announces its plan for the season, possibly in the coming week, possibly the week after. There may still be a no-football option although it is hard to imagine the SEC presidents being even more cautious than their peers in the Big Ten and Pac-12, unless the coronavirus numbers are simply overwhelming. Maybe they are, but at a basic level, people can be confused by sitting at home watching the Braves and Mets on television and then being told that other sports can’t at least play without fans, even college sports.

Lots of folks have weighed in on Nick Saban adding the top 2021 DL in Damon Payne. National 247 analyst Steve Wiltfong:

“A year after landing Timothy Smith, Alabama lands another twitch disruptive five-star defensive tackle type in Damon Payne, going into the Midwest and taking the 6-foot-4, 290-pound prospect out of Big Ten country. Payne is an explosive athlete, a two-way player for one of Michigan’s best high school programs. The initial quickness, body control and explosive power make him unique to his peers. Sports an elite shuttle time of 4.59, great feet and balance. Payne is still developing physically too, a lot of upside in the tank from a strength standpoint. On the prep level, Payne works on the edge and interior, takes on double teams, stuffs the run and brings a pass rush presence from wherever he lines up. He’ll be a three-down player in Tuscaloosa as well. When talking to his head coach, Jermain Crowell raves about how cerebral Payne is. As Alabama tries to reel in the Buckeyes for the No. 1 class in the 2021 cycle, Nick Saban and company needed this one, another recruiting win where the Tide weren’t mentioned much early on (Payne has been landing offers since the 8th grade) but since January have really been the team to beat.”

This kid looks like a monster, and I am also very excited to see what Smith does as a freshman.

Coach David Ballou showed that he is no slouch in the weight room.

In true social media form, there are people in his replies critiquing his form. What a world.

Last, singer Reyna Roberts has a new song that features a hearty “Roll Tide” in the lyrics.

We call all get behind that.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.