While the 2020 season will be quite forgettable record-wise for Auburn football fans, my guess is some of the more perceptive ones already have or will develop a healthy respect for this group even though the Tigers didn’t live up to their own expectations.
Back in early June when the players were allowed to return to campus after being sent home in March due to the pandemic, there was major doubt in many quarters about whether or not there were going to be any college football games played in the fall.
Despite a good bit of negativity on the pandemic front from a variety of areas, the Tigers went about their business of preparing for what turned out to be a really different season in a number of areas.
With just a few exceptions, the players decided it was worth the effort to isolate themselves for half a year in order to make an Auburn football season happen.
Other than a short break for Thanksgiving when players could go home and spend time with their families, the Tigers and their coaches stayed inside their on-campus Covid-protocol bubble from June into December when they closed the regular season with a victory at Mississippi State.
Although the team had some issues with Covid positives and contact tracing during the extended preseason, and at times during the regular season, the team was ready to answer the bell and come out competing every time the Tigers were scheduled to play a game. Considering the large number of games around the country that were postponed or canceled, that is no small thing.
While the Tigers had plenty of ups and downs with their performances on offense and defense, the effort on the field was solid throughout the season.
The same can be said of the overall group effort to do what team physician Michael Goodlett asked so the Tigers could get through the season from start to finish. A lot of folks stepped up to enable that to happen, an effort worthy of respect.
On the subject of earning respect, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey deserves an extra dose of that for his efforts.
The decision to go to a 10-game, conference games-only regular season went about as well as could have been hoped for under the difficult circumstances with the Covid-19 outbreak not going away in the fall.
With the SEC managing to play 68 of its 70 regular season contests plus the SEC Championship Game, that is a big win for the league, its commissioner and the players who were eager to have a chance to compete in 2020.
Sankey has to also be pleased that SEC teams have won six of their eight postseason games, with a chance for another win and a national championship if Alabama can avoid being upset by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game on Monday night.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.