FRANK FRANGIE: SEC got it wrong

FRANK FRANGIE: SEC got it wrong

By: Frank Frangie

On the surface, the Miami Marlins’ COVID outbreak was the worst possible thing to happen to Major League Baseball. And for that matter, to sports in general.

The baseball world shuddered, worrying about the health of Marlins’ players and staff, but moreover, greatly concerned about the effect it would have on the sport overall. Would more teams have outbreaks, causing more teams to shut down for a week or more? Worse yet, would it become so rampant that the sport would shut down altogether for the 2020 season, right after it began?

Officials of other sports worried, too. We’ve all known baseball would be the guinea pig for all sports that were playing outside of the bubble. Would teams be able to travel safely? Would they all have outbreaks? Would it be so bad that, God forbid, we might not even have football?

But if you look beyond the surface — and I’ll admit I tend to be a glass is half full sort — but it might just be the best thing that could have happened to baseball. And, for that matter, to sports overall. Obviously, that is not the case if any of the infected, even one, develops serious illness from it. I know that.

But if not, the best thing about this is that the Marlins outbreak REALLY got everyone’s attention. Everyone in baseball. Everyone in sports. It seems likely now that many members of the Marlins didn’t take the protocols very seriously at some point, probably during those final exhibitions in Atlanta. There are reports that they went out at night, hung in the hotel bar, etc. At worst, they totally ignored the protocols. At best, they were way too casual about them.

These aren’t bad people, mind you. They are young people who probably needed a wake up call.

The results were devastating. The Marlins and Phillies were shut down for a week.

However, I now truly believe everyone understands the risks of not taking the protocols seriously. Baseball now will have a compliance officer travel with every team to make sure protocols are followed. More importantly, other players in that sport and others now REALLY know what can go wrong. NO team wants to be the next Marlins.

I’m not suggesting someone else won’t mess up. They will. The Cardinals had enough players test positive that they and the Brewers had games postponed, too. But you don’t sense that came from the callous carelessness the Marlins apparently showed.

I do believe that is far less likely than before. And if it doesn’t happen again, it will be in part because of how shocking it was when it happened the first time. …

I think the SEC got it wrong. And because of it, Florida and FSU won’t play each other in football for the first time since 1957. I wasn’t born then. And I’m pretty old.

By now, you know the story. The Big 10 and Pac 12 said they are going conference only, the ACC then said they were adopting a 10 plus 1 model, and the 1 non-conference game had to be played in the ACC team’s state. Which means, obviously, they were trying to save those four SEC-ACC rivalries — Florida-FSU, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Clemson-South Carolina, Kentucky-Louisville.

To maintain those rivalries, the SEC was going to have to do the same thing. Instead, the league decided to join the Big 10 and Pac 12 in playing only conference games. That sent shock waves through the Sunbelt, particularly in the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. Were we really not going to have those games?

So how did the SEC get it wrong? By mandating that everyone follow the same plan. If athletic directors from most of the schools didn’t want to take the risk of playing outside the league, I get that. I’ve never believed that Alabama, LSU, Auburn and others should be mandated to play outside the league just so other schools could maintain their rivalries. That wouldn’t be fair to those schools.

But why not let each institution make its own decision? The SEC should have said we are playing 10 conference games. And if any of our institutions choose to play an additional game outside of the league, that is their choice. And if they choose not to, that is OK, too. That way everyone wins. The schools that don’t want to play non-conference games don’t have to. And the ones that want to, can. Schools make their own choice.

It really doesn’t matter if some schools within a league play a different amount of overall games than other teams. That happens every time a hurricane causes the cancellation of a game, which is quite often. The final number of games should be up to the school. It would have no effect on the league race.

I know the league said it ran out of Saturdays, but they could have begun on Sept. 19 with those rivalry games. Lots of other leagues are playing much earlier than that. That is when they should have been played.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. We lose terrific rivalries, if only for a year. And let’s be honest, our game — Florida-FSU — is by far the best of those. The two programs have combined to win six national championships in the last 27 years. They have combined to play in nine national title games in that stretch. Heck, they even played a national title game against each other.

It is one of the best rivalries in all of college football. It’s a shame they won’t play this year. …

Speaking of college athletics, it does seem to be at a crossroads of sorts. The long overdue Name, Image and Likeness legislation is finally going to take hold, it would appear, but it took way too long. The Power Five conferences, and their 65 schools, already control college football and plan to play on, even if the NCAA Board of Governors plans to cancel fall championships in all other sports, which is a possibility.

Now, it appears, those Power Five schools are discussing holding championships in all of the other fall sports if the NCAA decides to cancel them. If THAT happens, then the separation from the NCAA will be off and running. And if you think college sports are commercialized now, just wait.

And finally on this topic, some Pac 12 football players have organized and made a list of players’ demands in a story in The Players’ Tribune. They have threatened to not play if their demands are not met.

Some of the demands are silly. They have insisted Stanford use its $27 billion endowment to reinstate the 11 sports it canceled. Sorry, but I doubt that happens. They also have demanded that leaders take huge salary cuts. Again, with respect, I think there could be some incremental salary adjustments, but I doubt wholesale changes are made to the compensation structure of coaches, ADs and conference officials because some players are angry.

But I do think some of the demands have merit. Make truly certain that every possible safety protocol is in place and ensure compliance. Make sure every student has the right to opt out in these difficult times with full impunity — no loss of scholarship or year of eligibility. And somehow make sure players, who are the ones truly at risk, get some share of the pie, even if it is in the form of NIL legislation.

Mandating the creation of task forces to ensure racial equality is a good step. I even think lengthening scholarships from four years to six has some merit. Why not? It gives students a better chance to graduate.

Overall, it is noteworthy that someone had the fortitude and organizational skills to get players together and to get them to think similarly. Players in all sports are more empowered than ever and some, like in this example, are taking advantage of the timing.

Bottom line: college sports, now more than ever, are on the verge of becoming an entirely commercial entity, with unions, salaries, salary caps, etc. Some believe it’s always been that way. Either way, it’s about to take the next step. …

Losing nose guard Al Woods and special teams’ ace Lerentee McCray will hurt the Jags. Make no mistake about that. Both are good players, good leaders, real pros. Woods was going to greatly improve the run defense — he is 330 pounds, tough as heck, had a great year last year in Seattle, year in and year out one of the best defenses in the league. McCray is one of the reasons the Jags, for all the things they haven’t always done well, have among the best special teams in the league.

But I also totally get it. Your safety, and that of your loved ones, always comes first. Both of those guys have been around a few years. Both have made a little money and both obviously are very concerned about not only their health, but the health of their loved ones.

I respect decisions made by both. Hopefully everyone stays healthy and they are back to help the cause in 2021. …

Really sad to hear of the passing of former Bolles and Orange Park star football player Robert Pollard. What a magnificent talent he was.

I still remember being at that state title game between Bolles and Lake Wales in Daytona Beach in 1993. Bolles had its usual collection of terrific players — super recruit center John Spickelmier wound up at Notre Dame — and Lake Wales had a rifle-armed quarterback named Chad Barnhardt who wound up at South Florida. But the best player on the field was a sophomore do everything player named Robert Pollard.

Honestly, he looked like he didn’t even belong on a high school field. Bolles was mostly a running team back then, completing only 9 passes that game. But Pollard caught 5 of them for 59 yards and set up two Bulldogs’ scores with long, electrifying returns. The returns were things of beauty. Bolles won easily 42-21 to complete a 15-0 season.

I remember walking out of the game thinking that was one of the best high school players I ever watched play. And I previously had covered Emmitt Smith, Leroy Butler and tons other future NFL stars as high schoolers. Pollard truly was that good. And he was only a sophomore. May he RIP. …

I made a comment on the show last week that it is time for Notre Dame to join the ACC full-time, not just in all the other sports, and it’s an understatement to say I angered Irish Nation. I think I heard from every Notre Dame grad but Rudy.

I said Notre Dame should share its egregiously high TV dollars with the other ACC teams. Turns out, as I was often reminded, that the Irish’s $15 million in annual TV dollars is actually less than the ACC teams receive. Point taken.

But my overall point was that Notre Dame’s sort of half-membership in the ACC seems a little clunky. It would make more sense if the Irish was a full member — like every other team in the league — or just a fulltime independent. That was the point. I still hope it happens one day. …

Hate to hear of the passing of Wilford Brimley. Loved him as Redford’s manager in The Natural. Loved him as the head of security in The Firm. Loved the commercials.

But my favorite role was his brief appearance at the end of Absence of Malice, one of my favorite movies, as assistant Attorney General James A. Wells. He only had one scene, but he stole the movie. It was simply magnificent. May he RIP. …

I’m not surprised the short summer camp before starting the abbreviated baseball season has led to numerous pitching injuries. At this writing, 34 pitchers already have missed time with injuries and the season is barely a week old. The list includes big names Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber and others.

The truth is hitters only need two or three weeks of spring training. But it is six weeks long, usually, to help the pitchers get stretched out and build up their arm strength. This year, they didn’t have close to that. And it shows. …

Forrest Gump was on the other night, watched it for the umpteenth time. Still think it would have been better if Jenny had lived. Sorry, I’m sappy. …

It took awhile for the bubble sports to come back, but it was worth the wait. The Lakers-Clippers thriller Thursday night was fantastic — the Lakers narrowly won. I watched tons more NBA yesterday and then, last night, even peeked at a little hockey. Scout’s Honor. I really did. …

Been on an 80s hits kick lately. Modern English, Soft Cell and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I know, I know. But still …

I think frozen custard is better than ice cream. The wife thinks I need a lobotomy. …

In innings 1 through 6 this season — the first six innings of all games — the Marlins have scored twice as many total runs as the Pirates — 16 to 8. And the Marlins haven’t played a game in a week. …