AN OREGON SCHEDULE FOR THE AGES – Can the upcoming Season Begin as Normal, or Because of Covid-19, Will There be an Entirely New Look to Autzen Stadium?
Is there ever a good time for a global pandemic?
Probably not, but the timing couldn’t have been worse when it comes to Oregon athletics.
The current COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent handling of it have made the immediate future of our society a big question mark.
A significant segment of our society, and billions of dollars in flux, is ‘live’ sports.
This will all end when a workable vaccine becomes available, but that might not be on the market until the end of the year at its earliest.
So in the meantime, we wait and wonder what high school, college and professional sports will look like in the coming weeks and months.
Right now in the middle of June, there are still no marquee sports events happening, except for NASCAR.
Professional golf is also underway, but without fans.
The NBA and NHL have plans to begin in July and baseball is still fighting over how to structure the financial pie in regards to players and owners.
As for the NCAA, students are slowing trickling back onto campuses in order to work out. However when August rolls around and when fall sports practices officially get underway at full tilt, there are huge question marks that remain.
If they can somehow navigate around the Coronavirus and make it through unscathed, even then, the actual games will look vastly different.
Imagine an empty or even half full Autzen Stadium for the Ohio State game on September 12th. Just a few months ago, that was unthinkable.
With or without fans in the stands, the Ducks are poised to have a special season with a home schedule that is one of the best in school history.
The Buckeyes, USC, Washington, and Stanford are all set to make a trip to Eugene during the upcoming season.
Autzen will have an upgrade on the East side with a brand new scoreboard.
Fans have been talking about this season for a very long time. Undeniably, the Autzen experience was going to be at its peak. A great team, great opponents and a great atmosphere were all part of the mix in this upcoming 2020 season.
Even the North Dakota State fan base was lighting up Twitter lamenting at how they were going to invade Autzen and shock the college football world.
And they have good reason to feel that way.
The Bison went 16-0 last season and won the FCS National Championship. NDSU will also bring in quarterback Trey Lance, who was the 2019 Walter Payton Award winner – that level’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
The Bison were looking to pull off another Appalachian State-over-Michigan kind of a shocker.
But now, that could all change for Bison fans. It would have been fun to see how the interaction of two confident groups of passionate fans would have played out.
Oregon and its fan base have been licking their chops about facing Ohio State in Eugene for some time now. And you have to wonder if pay back might be on their minds from the disappointing 2010 Rose Bowl loss.
In regards to fans and excitement, the match-up with the Buckeyes might have been the biggest non-conference game in Eugene since Oklahoma came to town in 2006. It would be one of the very few times two national title contenders would face-off inside the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium with the noise level going through the proverbial roof,…or non-existent roof.
Games with rival Washington and Pac-12 contender USC would have been special as well.
And now, who knows what those games will look like when those match-ups come to fruition. Will they face off at half capacity or with no fans in the stadium at all? Might it look like a made-for-TV event?
There’s so many unanswered questions.
And the outcome to those questions won’t really be known until we get further down the line when the schools and conference give the green light to go ahead and play.
But, however they’re played, and whatever they look like, we know it simply won’t be the same as previous seasons.
And what’s even more frustrating is, this upcoming schedule of high caliber games are some of the best we’ve seen in recent memory at Autzen Stadium.
Disappointing for sure, but Duck fans and fans everywhere will just have to make the best of it.
~ Don Smalley