The Governor’s Cup has been grounded.
Thursday’s decision by the Southeastern Conference to play a league-only football schedule this fall means Kentucky won’t face Louisville and won’t have to take the governor’s trophy from its case for at least another year.
In time, interrupting the commonwealth’s gridiron grudgefest may seem an awful shame. At the moment, though, it’s hard to get overly concerned about an annual rivalry being interrupted by a global pandemic.
“Everyone would like to play a full schedule, including our rivalry game with Louisville,” UK coach Mark Stoops said Thursday, “but this timing and format gives us our best opportunity to adjust to these unique circumstances.”
It is, to be sure, an opportunity and not an assurance.
The SEC plans to play 10 conference games in a season that won’t start until Sept. 26. The Atlantic Coast Conference has adopted an 11-game schedule, one of them a non-conference tilt.
But more than a month before those games are scheduled to start, conference contingency plans probably belong in pencil rather than headline type. There is still no certainty that COVID-19 will allow extensive schedules to be played this fall.
College football’s immediate future is conditioned on a set of variables far beyond the control of those in charge. Though University of Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra says he feels better now than he did a week ago, and Thursday expressed confidence in college athletics’ ability to adapt, he is preparing for progress to be incremental and, perhaps, incomplete.
“I’m not naïve to believe that a vaccine shows up Jan. 1 and all of a sudden we return to normal,” Tyra said during a video teleconference. “I don’t think our student-athletes are, either.
“There’s no definitive end to this virus. We could face the very same thing this time next year. There are no guarantees.”
The ACC is so short on certainties that it announced a revised football schedule Wednesday that included neither specific dates nor the identity of schools’ lone non-conference opponent.
Presumably, league schedule-makers were awaiting word on whether the SEC would adopt a similar “plus-one” schedule that would allow for in-state rivalry games such as Kentucky-Louisville, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech.
Presumably, those same people are scrambling now.
“It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a prepared statement. “But these are unique and hopefully temporary circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”
As a result of the SEC’s decision, U of L will need to choose between honoring its contracts with either Western Kentucky or Murray State or seeking a…