“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
This quote from “The Godfather” should be repeated by college football fans -- particularly those who root for the Arkansas Razorbacks -- over the next few weeks.
As if the billions of dollars that flow into Power 5 programs isn’t enough to remind us of that maxim, this week’s decision by Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd to opt out of the remaining two games to get ready for the NFL Draft should.
Thanks to a pandemic, the CFB season is a clustermess of epic proportions. The Razorbacks should be done with regular season games by now. Instead, they have two games left — provided positive tests don’t derail them further — and Arkansas will be playing SEC games into mid-December.
That means -- in Before Covid Times — Boyd would be working with a personal trainer to get ready for the NFL Combine. Stay with the 3-5 team for those final two games and he’s putting that vital prep work on the backburner which potentially could cost draft spots (i.e. $$$).
It’s understandable for fans to be bothered when a team captain leaves before the official end of the season. We’ve seen it when players in seasons’ past have left their teams before meaningless bowl games. We saw it before the season started as some players opted out of the entire season.
Boyd was expected to turn pro after last year’s 1,133 yard season. Newbie head coach Sam Pittman did a great job recruiting him to stay. So this season’s 82 carries for 309 yards should be viewed as gravy by Arkansas fans.
Before the season Big 10 athletics directors decided teams would have to play six out of eight scheduled games to be eligible for the conference championship game. Great! Then Ohio State (4-0 and ranked No. 4 in the College Football Playoff ranking) had two games cancelled due to Covid outbreaks. One more and they’re ineligible.
Suddenly, there’s a chorus of Football Guys demanding the B1G change the rules so the Buckeyes can move straight to the title game even if their remaining games are scrapped.
You have to wonder if this outcry would be happening if it was the Indiana Hoosiers in Ohio State’s position.
This season is going to be asterisked left and right. So let Ohio State in. Nothing would be more 2020 than a team entering the playoff 4-0 via a last-minute rule change and winning the National Championship.
For years now, we’ve been “treated” to colleges excitedly announcing nonconference games against bigtime foes … 10 years in the future. Arkansas, for example, already has games against Oklahoma State scheduled in the 2032 and 2033 seasons. Of course, those announcements were always more speculative than anything as one team or the other might buy out their opponent and schedule a weaker opponent for a rent-a-win.
So if we take one thing from the pandemic season and make it permanent, it should be scheduling flexibility.
For example, Coastal Carolina (9-0) is scheduled to host Liberty University (9-1) this Saturday. ESPN’s College GameDay is supposed to be there for a historic game between the No. 14-ranked Chanticleers and the No. 25 Fightin’ Falwells. But Liberty is dealing with a Covid outbreak. So on Wednesday, Coastal began chatting up No. 8 BYU (9-0) about filling in for Liberty. Wednesday!
That is championship-level hustle. Plus, it lays bare the inane practice of scheduling games so far in advance that some of the players who will play in them are currently in first grade.
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