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Training Camp at Lehigh? Fugetaboutit Updated

May 26, 2011, 11:29 AM EDT

Update: Another article in today’s Morning Call would suggest the university will accommodate the Eagles even on short notice. “If there’s an ideal time,” Sterrett said, “then, yes, we’d like to know
by mid-June if we’re going to provide the same quality setup as before.
But is there a drop-dead date we have to know by? No.”
Still, further delays reduce the prospects of holding camp at Lehigh. The team would likely abandon the idea if it became a headache, and regardless, it needs to conclude before students return. Hat tip to Lehigh Chris.**

One of the Eagles’ great traditions could soon become another casualty of the lockout. Lehigh University, which has played host to training camp since 1996, and the Birds’ organization will reach a decision on whether they will hold the event on campus or not by mid-June. Camp typically opens later in July.

The sad realization we’ve come to though is this announcement was probably just a formality. With only one more major court date remaining on June 3, it appears litigation won’t resolve any labor issues, and the players and owners have made no defined progress since the lockout began. In fact, they aren’t even in mediation right now. Barring a miracle ruling, or a very sudden about-face in negotiations, there is virtually no way this thing is over in time to save camp, at least it’s highly unlikely.

And certainly a shame, as training camp at Lehigh has been one thing everybody can agree the franchise has gotten right. Each year, tens of thousands of fans attend the practices, with no price of admission. It’s an easy thing to take for granted, but less than half the league still holds camps that are open to public.

You can’t blame either side for taking a position on cancelling. It’s not something the university just whips together. A lot of work goes into preparing the campus for the influx of visitors. When it’s over, they have to tear it all down and get ready for the school year. The Eagles have to be honest with themselves, too. Even if the lockout ends before the date they would have opened camp, is there even enough time to coordinate the trip?

Of course, first it’s training camp, then it’s the preseason, and finally… games?

Before this thing started, I didn’t think there was any way the NFL would risk losing games to a work stoppage. While talking some Birds the other day, I realized now I am starting to believe it’s inevitable.

When will something happen? After the appeals court reaches their decision on June 3? July? At the last possible minute in August? And what is “the last possible minute?” Regardless of where it’s held, teams need some kind of formal training camp, at least a couple of weeks I would imagine, and maybe a preseason game or two. Hell, they haven’t even had free agency yet, or signed rookies. They can’t just notarize a deal one day and be playing football the next.

Unless a collective bargaining agreement comes soon after, the official cancellation of training camp will be a very bad day not just for Eagles fans, but perhaps all fans of the sport. These folks are reaching a point of no return soon, and while they probably wouldn’t allow the entire season to go under no matter what the cost, even one missed or delayed regular season game is one too many.

>> Lehigh is still holding space for Eagles [Morning Call]
>> Lehigh, Birds agree to decide on camp around mid-June [Daily News]

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