Football, Graduation, and Finding Priorities in a Pandemic

By: Hayden Cordova | Managing Editor

Photo by: Michael Dunn | Photographer


COVID-19’s impact on South and the local area remains strong, even if its effects on students’ day-to-day lives have become old news.  Even late into 2020, tough decisions have to be made to accommodate public safety.  On Oct. 9 of 2020, South announced that the fall semester’s commencement ceremony will take place virtually in December.

The university’s decision comes with good reason, considering the circumstances. As the second wave of COVID-19 causes cases to resurge across Europe and other nations, the U.S. still struggles to contain the first wave’s effects.  With the number of active Alabama cases continuing to ebb and flow erratically, precautions have to be taken if the second wave hits America in the winter months of 2020 and 2021 as predicted.  Considering student travel and a large congregation of people in one area, South’s virtual approach towards graduation falls in line with its previous efforts to move various campus events and activities online.

What does this say about South?  Graduation is where the years of hard-work students put into their education is recognized and congratulated.  It is also when most people from across South’s campuses will be gathered together, and a high risk of infection transmission.  It’s a decision that shows that the university is putting its students’ safety first and foremost above taking significant health risks for a ceremony. 

Context is always key, however, and in this case that context comes in the form of the Jaguars’ rivalry game against Troy, scheduled for Dec. 12.  This was the original date for South’s commencement ceremony,  previously scheduled for  Dec. 10 and 11 on Sept. 29.  Both universities agreed to postpone the game due to rising infection rates among the players. Past games have taken numerous precautions with limited seating and social distancing regulations.

Football is a distinct branch of college universities.  Incorporated in and around students’ education, it exists as an industry all its own, providing job and career opportunities even outside athletics.  It also serves as a symbol of college pride and identity, representing the university beyond the sport itself by bringing students together like any other campus activity.

This does not change the fact that the rivalry game, a university supported event, is being held in person despite the high risk of infection just six days after commencement.  A college football game and a college graduation ceremony are two very different events in nature.  The difference being that the Jaguars will play despite the very same concerns that have moved graduation online.  So the question remains:

What does this say about South?