There used to be a time when after winning the national championship, there were parades to be had and victory celebrations on campus. But these are different times. The CFB aftermath begins today and it includes getting back to the office and back to work for Alabama coach Nick Saban. Oh, he celebrated with the team in the locker room. And then did the media responsibilities. He hung out with the family a little overnight. And then Tuesday morning it was back to the media room for more of the same. And now, by his own admission, it is back to work.
The CFB Aftermath Begins Today
Saban, not being one for the frivolity of parades and the like, would be back to work in the coming days anyway. But in the post-2020 college football season of COVID, everything is different. Everything requires planning and focus, and the ability to throw it all away and change course at the drop of a hat.
“The to-do list started after the game last night,” Saban said Tuesday morning. The priority is meeting with players. Sure, they are reveling in the victory, but there are decisions to be made and in the current calendar, those decisions must come now. “We got juniors that have to make decisions about the draft. Those things are pretty immediate, and we started on them last night right after the game. It’s an ongoing process, building a team. I don’t think you can fall asleep at the switch for a minute if you want to try to do it the right way for your players and your program.”
The Guessing Game
In a normal world the fans would spend the time discussing their team’s place in college football this season and looking to next season. There will be the way-too-soon forecasts, and yes, they are way too soon. We don’t even know if there will be Spring camps as is the norm, much less which players are staying, and which are going. The virus has not gone away and will impact team workouts in January. High school players who are early enrollees will have a different experience than those who came before them.
“You like to enjoy this game for a minute, but we also know there’s a lot of challenges in the future,” Saban said. “We’ll go through off-season program the best we can. We’ll go through spring practice, if we have spring practice. And we’ll continue to try to recruit the best we can. Hopefully we get back to normal here sometime soon.”
It felt good to most to complete the season that was in jeopardy every week. To put a period at the end of a sentence always feels like an accomplishment. But Saban also acknowledged that there is still so much unknown going forward. And it goes beyond which players are declaring for the draft or which may hit the transfer portal.
While every conference operated on its own terms during the COVID season, some did it better than others. Say what you want about the SEC, and there is plenty of criticism and praise to be had in somewhat equal parts. But once they decided to move forward with a season, they had a plan that worked. There was a constant juggling and rescheduling of games. But at the end of the season, the SEC cancelled two games outright. Two. The Pac 12 cancelled more than twice that number of games and was only attempting to pay half as many games as the SEC.
Saban did take the time to appreciate what Alabama had gone through on its path to the national title Monday night. For the first time, the Tide was free of the criticism of playing cupcakes in the non-conference schedule. They went through an actual tough schedule. Monday night, moments after the game in his press conference, Saban said, “Well, to me, this team accomplished more almost than any team. No disrespect to any other teams that we had or any championship teams. But this team won 11 SEC games. No other team has done that. They won the SEC, went undefeated in the SEC, then they beat two great teams in the Playoffs with no break in between.”
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones was not so shy in his assessment of his team Monday night. “I think we’re the best team to ever play.” Easy to say when you blew away the record book in what is likely your last college football game.
More questions Than Answers
Of course, Saban has no time, or does not make the time, for such assessments. That is for others. The NCAA granted every college football a “free” year on eligibility in 2020. Schools can expand their scholarship numbers for the one year. What does that do to athletic department budgets? How many players will use 2020 as their freebie? The rosters are still being expanded for the post-season all-star games. They are not actually being played, but are doing virtual meetings, seminars and, workouts with NFL coaches. Will more Bama players jump at those? Will there be January workouts within the COVID world? What kind of calendar are conferences looking at for Spring camp which usually starts in March? And what do the finances look like after pushing through a season to get at least some of the TV revenue back? What were the losses with few to no fans?
There is no rest for those pushing to be at the top of the college football world. As soon as you win, the aftermath assessment begins immediately. The calendar for whatever the 2021 season is going to be started around midnight last night.