This column has been on something of a hiatus for the past couple of weeks as I’ve been working on a non-sports related book. The fact is, though, we’ve all been on a hiatus from sports as the coronavirus has disrupted our lives with social distancing policies across the country.
But now we have an answer. Plans are in place for the Hogs to report to campus around the middle of July and play, as scheduled, on September 5th. Hallelujah!!!!!!! Maybe……
A friend of mine said, “It’s too bad this didn’t happen last year, because there was plenty of space for social distancing in the stadium — but then again, we’d probably still have Chad Morris.”
WHEN ARE WE BACK TO PLAYING FOOTBALL?
Hunter Yurachek and fellow athletic directors Chris Peterson of UAPB and Podraic McMeel of UA Monticello responded to questions on May 4th from members of the University of Arkansas System’s Board of Regents. Here are some of the most important takeaways:
—Yurachek: “I think we have really good chance of starting our football program on time.”
—Peterson: “The ability to test, monitor and sanitize and the associated costs are serious concerns.”
—McMeel: the “expense of testing, monitoring hand sanitizing is a concern.”
SLEW OF CAVEATS:
Without quoting word for word, the big caveats are:
—If the federal government says “no,” then that’s the word
—State and local authorities have to have a plan for re-socialization
—Universities have to have a plan
—Universities have to have a plan for student athletes
—Must have adequate personal protective equipment
—There must be the ability to assess COVID-19 regionally and locally
—Must have access to reliable rapid diagnostic testing
—Must have local surveillance so new cases can be promptly identified
—Have clearly identified and transparent risk analyses in place
A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB:
I don’t doubt these are all good and probably necessary measures, which need to be taken. But getting this done by September is a mountain to climb. That’s a lot of equipment to not only pay for from customers (universities), but also for manufacturers to produce and deliver as vendors.
So, the question is, who’s going to pay for it? Here are the options:
—The dysfunctional U.S. Congress
—Arkansas Legislature which doesn’t want to spend anything on anything.
Like Congress and the Legislature, they all have their own budgeting processes to work through. And, we’re just one of 50 states that have to work through this.
HERE’S THE DEAL:
I want college football back as much as anyone. I’m excited about Sam Pittman, Barry Odom, Kendal Briles and the players they’ve recruited. I want them on the field to see how they all mesh together because the Hogs progress looks good to me.
But there are a lot of blanks to fill in here. And, the fact is, most politicians may love football, but don’t like to spend money because they don’t want budget shortfalls.
Because budget shortfalls either lead debt, or worse yet, raising taxes on people who vote.
What if the poorest states in the SEC — Arkansas and Mississippi — can’t foot the bill for all of this? Does that mean we sit at home while the rest of the SEC plays a nine-game schedule? Do we get to play away games in states that can? Will our revenue pay for these things, so we don’t have to rely on government to cover them? Can every school’s revenue pay for these things? I doubt it.
What would it mean to the SEC Championship? The National Championship?
Would it mean we would all pay more taxes to watch football? Or, would it just mean that the rich get richer in college football, because the Alabamas and Ohio States can afford it?
These are all considerations as we beg and pray for this pandemic to go away. So far, we don’t have any clue what the answers are.
We all hope it happens, but as Buddha says, “all human misery is based on human expectation.”
Don’t get your hopes up, or you may be disappointed.
For a deeper dive into Razorback football and its 2020 start in the wake of COVID, watch this: