‘Bring ’em back’: College football returns
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Is it too soon to start focusing on the first Saturday in September, when WVU will bump heads with Florida State in Atlanta?
“Bump heads” in the gloomy months of COVID-19 might not get rave reviews from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or others advocating social distancing, but for those climbing the walls without football it’s what is needed.
It could be an arena without fans in attendance, but the noise leading up to the 2020 season opener will be deafening enough.
There was no spring football practice for either school, and no football in March in most of the southland is like saying Bear Bryant and Bobby Bowden couldn’t coach their way out of a kitchen ripe with the smells of fresh-baked apple pie, candied yams, corn bread, fried chicken and hush puppies.
College campuses were cleared of students in March. Ashen faces with eyes cast downward looking at the cracks in the sidewalks replaced the hitting on the practice fields from College Station in Texas to Clemson, in South Carolina.
No football. No light-hearted bantering between followers of Alabama and Auburn or even Delta State and Jackson State.
And there was no set-in-stone schedule to get football back from its exile into the piney woods.
Finally, comes a call from the NCAA itself and the Big 12 Conference where WVU resides that football players can return to campus and begin preparations for the 2020 season.
Neal Brown will be in his second year as WVU’s head coach. He has quickly drawn favor from most of the feverish Mountaineer fans. At Florida State, there will be first-year coach Mike Norvell trying his best to reduce the pile of anguish (and losses) left by Willie Taggart and before him, Jimbo Fisher.
But before the Anticipation in Atlanta in September will come the loud cheering and hallelujahs yelled from both Morgantown and Tallahassee because football is coming back.
New football faces will arrive from the “transfer portal.” Coaches can scrape the rust off their whistles and be there from June 8-22. The players can come to Morgantown for voluntary workouts from June 15-29.
In the football-crazy South, home of national champion LSU and national runner-up Clemson, there might be celebrations lit by moonshine, mint juleps and alligator stew.
Soon enough in September it will be a second-year coach from West Virginia matching strategies with Florida State’s Mike Norvell, fresh from his last assignment at Memphis, where his Tigers did more than a fair amount of winning.
As the old-line politicians once sang, “Happy days are here again!”