As the United States slowly begins to reopen and return to a semi-normal routine, the sports world is beginning to follow in pursuit.

Clemson announced this week it will welcome back basketball and football players to campus as soon as June 8. Following the NCAA’s decision last week to allow for voluntary team workouts/activities for all sports beginning June 1, Clemson wasted little time in making the most of the opportunity in an announcement made via a letter from Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich.

“We are encouraged to begin the first step in the implementation of our Phase I planning, and appreciate the leadership of our University in helping us prepare for our student-athletes and staff to return in early June,” Radakovich said. “We are confident in our ability to provide a safe environment and have put our energy into that goal. We’re encouraged by the progress and remain vigilant as we begin to welcome a limited number of student-athletes back to our facilities.”

The news is welcomed to many but hardly means we’ll have a football season as originally scheduled. However, it’s absolutely a starting point for those who are healthy and feel comfortable enough to get back to work to do so.

It will be a slow, gradual process but appears to be one that will help facilitate the journey to playing ball in the fall. But that question still looms large in the minds of everyone and if so, what will it look like? Administrations across the country are examining what social distancing inside a college football stadium will entail and if fans will be allowed at all. If spectators are welcomed back to Death Valley and other stadiums across the college football landscape, how full will stadiums be? Who gets to have a ticket and if they are reserved for only season ticket holders/special donors [IPTAY, etc.] what happens when they decide to sell their tickets for a particular game? Ticket prices are already at an all-time high, especially for the blockbuster games, so I can only imagine what will happen this season if the amount of tickets available is cut in half. Yikes.

Just imagine a Clemson-Ohio State rematch in Miami for the National Championship. We’ll open up the bidding at $12,000 for the last row of the upper deck, please.

Clemson fans singing the alma mater during a home game in Death Valley (Photo: Clemson University)

Hard to imagine some of the bigger, popular venues only 30-50 percent full every weekend through the regular season. I don’t envy guys like ACC Commissioner John Swofford, or school administration and athletic departments. It’s likely to be one of those “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” type deals and there’s going to be unhappy people no matter the decision.

On Tuesday, Radakovich appeared on ESPN’s Courtside with Seth Greenberg and Dan Dakich and was asked his thoughts on the upcoming college football season and if it would start on time.

“I do. As we sit here on May 26, (start) on time, full season. (Fans in the stands) is a little tougher. We are starting to get figures back from states that have opened up over the last couple of weeks and they still seem to be holding steady. Those are all very positive things and we hope those trends continue to occur.”

Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney caught some flack over his comments–which came across has overly optimistic or insensitive to some–during an April Zoom call with the media.

“My preference is let’s get to work and let’s go play,” Swinney said. “That’s the best-case scenario and I think that’s what’s going to happen. I have zero doubt that we’re going to be playing. The stands are going to be packed and the Valley is going to be rocking. I don’t have any doubt. That’s the only thought I have.”

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence expressed his desire to get back onto the field earlier this month as the signal caller hopes to bring one additional National Championship to Clemson before almost certainly heading to the NFL draft.

Here we are though two months later from Swinney’s comments and honestly we don’t know much more now than we did then. What we do know is Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on athletic departments finances with schools being forced to shut down struggling programs.

Furman forced its hand on the Baseball and Lacrosse programs while Appalachian State announced the cut of three varsity men’s programs: Tennis, Indoor Track/Field and Soccer. Unfortunately, we likely haven’t seen the end of such news from other schools who have been crippled due to the financial implications of Covid-19.

To be fair, like restaurants and other businesses, some of these sports programs were barely hanging on to begin with. So if we are keeping it real, all the blame can’t be placed on the virus. But was it the feather that broke the camel’s back? Absolutely fair to make that argument. Covid-19 has been devastating in the sports world far beyond not having games.

Despite what the NCAA might indicate by allowing these voluntary team activities to resume, we are far from being in the clear. That being said, hopefully this is a time-appropiate step in the right direction.

It continues to be an extremely tough time in our country. From the fallout of the Covid-19 to the ongoing racial injustice continuing to plague this country. I’m a firm believer that the world needs sports to return. Maybe that means sports with no fans in the stadiums and arenas for a while. That isn’t ideal, but it is better than nothing. I don’t know how picky we can afford to be at this point.

Put the politics and greed aside and let’s all do our part to get these student-athletes back onto the field….and eventually with fans back in the stands.

Spot the ball……but maybe let’s sanitize it first?

Ya’ll be safe out there. Peace and Love.