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The Russell Report: The Gators and College Football moving forward

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 2:48 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - After all the mock drafts and all the speculation, the 2021 NFL Draft is now history. Not a bad draft for the Gators who had eight players selected, the most since 2017. But that’s a lot of talent lost from the past two years, and that led Barrett Sallee from CBS Sports to tell Paul Finebaum recently that the gap between Georgia and the rest of the SEC East was as wide as the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to the grand canyon, and it’s a pretty big place, so i’m not sure the gap is that wide, but there is no doubt in my mind when SEC media days rolls around in July, Georgia will be the heavy favorite to win the SEC East. For a change, Florida will be a bit of an underdog, and we’ll see how the Gators handle that.

Speaking of the College Football Playoff, for the first time since the current contract was agreed to, there seems to be a lot of momentum for expanding the field. Personally, I love it that only four teams get in, but I understand politics and what fans want. Too many Power Five conferences are left out of the playoff, in part due to the dominance of the SEC, and they want in badly. And many fans want more teams in too, but will that make the quality of the games any better? And will ratings pick up again if the field expands? Regardless, look in the next two years for the field to be expanded to eight teams.

I’ve told you for a long time that change was coming in college athletics, and that change could be coming very soon. Florida’s name, image and likeness bill is set to go into effect on July 1st, just two months from now, despite a last minute push in the state legislature to delay it for a year. When news of that spread, the state’s college football coaches, athletic directors and athletes rose up as one to call for the law to be approved in the timeline as originally enacted. As of now, it looks like that will happen.

Finally, and thankfully, our country is making strides to get back to normal as more people receive the COVID vaccine and we can return to life as it once was, including in the area of sports. Stadiums are letting more people in, and the hope for football season is that crowds will be at or near normal. Getting to this point required a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and countless hours of testing and retesting by athletes and team personnel. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, but somehow, these kids, coaches and administrators pulled it off. We sometimes take these people for granted, but they’re human beings like us with the same concerns we had during the worst of COVID. But now, isn’t it nice to see them playing and being college athletes again?

“SportsScene with Steve Russell” airs Monday-Friday on ESPN 98.1 FM and AM 850 WRUF.

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