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Joe Santoro: What does schedule mean for Nevada Wolf Pack?

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada football players during the first day of fall camp on July 31.
Rebecca Katz/University of Nevada

The Mountain West has finally come to its senses. The Colorado-based conference announced this week that its football season will begin no earlier than Sept. 26 and consist of each team playing eight league games. The league also left open the door of each school playing as many as two non-league games.

What does this mean for the Wolf Pack? The Pack will play eight conference games starting at home on Sept. 26 against San Diego State. The other three home games will be Fresno State (Oct. 24), Utah State (Oct. 31) and Wyoming (Nov. 14).

The road games are Hawaii (Oct. 3), New Mexico (Oct. 17), San Jose State (Nov. 7) and UNLV (Nov. 28). The only game officially canceled on the Pack schedule is at Arkansas, since the SEC has eliminated non-league games.

The Sept. 26 opening game will be the Pack’s latest start to a season since it lost at San Francisco State 18-7 to open the 1955 season on Sept. 30. An eight-game season would be the shortest Pack football season since it went 4-3 in 1959.

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The Mountain West, like all mid-major conferences, is a follower, not a leader. The Power Five conferences, which eliminated non-league games for the most part (the ACC and Big 12 are allowing one non-league game per team), forced the Mountain West to delay the start of the season.

There really was no reason, after all, for Mountain West schools to play games against Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) and Group of Five schools in early September will little or no fans (dollars) in the stands.

If this was about the safety and health of the student athletes the entire football season would already by canceled or delayed until at least January. What, exactly, is going to change in our COVID-19 world by Sept. 26 to make playing college football games completely safe for athletes that aren’t even getting paid?

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College football, the NFL and Major League Baseball might have stumbled on a few changes because of COVID-19 that, hopefully, will become permanent.

There is absolutely no reason why the college football season should start in late August. There is also no reason, other than the desires of greedy athletic directors, why college football teams have to play four non-league games. The NFL has canceled its preseason games this month.

For those of us dinosaurs that remember when NFL teams played six preseason games, this is a breath of fresh air. Nobody needs preseason games. It’s like watching nameless, faceless PGA players at the Barracuda Championship in Reno on the driving range.

Major League Baseball is now using the designated hitter in both leagues, a rule that is five decades late in arriving. Watching pitchers hit is like watching sportswriters type. Believe me, it’s not pretty.

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You really have to love the sport of basketball to stomach the slop the NBA is giving us right now. No defense. No effort. No atmosphere. No meaning.

The league has played 37 games over the past week (through Wednesday) and a team has scored 120 or more points two dozen times. Only six teams have scored under 100 in a game. It’s like an All Star game every night with hardly any All Stars. Make it go away.

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The NHL and MLB, however, have been great. The level of competition and intensity is the same as before COVID-19 and it is easy to forget that there aren’t any fans in the stands. In fact, the lack of television coverage of the fans in the stands is a welcome relief. The cardboard cutouts in the stands at baseball games also give some stadiums more life than they had before COVID-19. The hockey teams are playing for a Stanley Cup. They aren’t going to embarrass Lord Stanley’s Cup by giving an artificial effort. Unlike the NBA, hockey players aren’t just going to float nearby, give little effort and just let opponents shoot. It’s the same with baseball. Their jobs are on the line with every pitch.

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OK, I admit it. I wasn’t all that fond of the new Seattle NHL franchise calling itself the Kraken. I had heard of the phrase “Release the Kraken” but beyond that I didn’t know if a Kraken was a saltine or something associated with a fat plumber.

But now I’m thinking Kraken just might be the best name in professional sports. The blue team colors and the sea motif fit in nicely with the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks. The logo, which is the letter S that looks like a menacing sea serpent, also looks great on a hockey sweater. It’s original, creative and doesn’t offend anyone except monsters of the sea.

Seattle fans also agree as sales of Kraken merchandise have been big sellers, even more popular than the launch of the Vegas Golden Knights a few years ago.

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How many MLB teams are actually going to play 60 games this season? It just depends on how many doubleheaders they play. The coronavirus outbreak among Miami Marlins players recently was, it seems, a warning and a reminder to the rest of the league. You don’t mess around with the coronavirus. If you are careless and stupid it will find you eventually.

The Marlins’ outbreak showed all players that they have to be responsible to themselves and their teammates or they could ruin the entire season. Baseball players are always talking about respecting and caring for their teammates. It’s their favorite cliché. Well, now is the time to prove that it just isn’t a cliché.