FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas vice-chancellor and director of athletics Hunter Yurachek along with the remainder of top execs in the SEC will likely make a decision on the 2020 college football season at some point this week.
The plan has been to be patient and wait as long as possible into late July to make any decision concerning the plan for college football this fall. On July 16 in a Zoom conference with beat reporters covering the Razorbacks Yurachek said they will be watching professional sports.
“I used to be a NASCAR fan, and I’ve become a NASCAR fan again in the last couple weeks,” Yurachek said. “It’s live sports. I watched the Bristol race with 30,000 live fans last night. Major League Baseball is going to start up next week. The NBA will start some preseason scrimmages next week. We will get a lot of data from what’s happening in the professional venues over the next couple weeks that I think will really help and guide us.”
With the NBA the result has been a good one, but that is somewhat misleading. The NBA has 22 teams in a bubble in Orlando with strict rules in place. If any situation in this day and age has a chance to work close to perfection this should be it. So far so good for the NBA.
Professional baseball started Thursday complete with no fans, but teams staying and playing in their home city except for Toronto. Canada deemed the traveling with teams coming and going from its country was too risky. It didn’t take but four days for cancellations and issues to start.
The Florida Marlins had at least 13 players and coaches test positive for COVID-19. They are still in Philadelphia where they played a weekend series. Their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles has been postponed. The New York Yankees, who played the Washington Nationals this weekend, were scheduled to be in Philadelphia tonight to start a series against the Phillies. Tonight’s game is also postponed in that series.
Baseball is a better model for college football than the NBA. There isn’t going to be a bubble for the college football teams so that means travel and interaction with other students on the campus are going to be a common happening. The bubble prevents NBA players from leaving unless an emergency and if they do and return there’s strict guidelines in place.
Is this to suggest that professional baseball and college athletics should be canceled? Not at all that isn’t my decision.
This is just to point out no matter how much some insisted things would simply return to normal once everything was opened back up that didn’t happen. Normal isn’t going to be a word used to accurately describe much of anything in 2020. This is something that Yurachek acknowledged.
“We’re not going to get back to normal in the next year or two it doesn’t sound like, so we have to develop what that new normal looks like,” Yurachek said. “We have to make some personal decisions, but when we make those decisions to leave our house and do things, there are some things that we should do that are in the best interest of everyone we come in contact with.”
Yurachek correctly points out youth sports returned this summer and went off without a lot of known hitches.
“One of the things that goes unnoticed and unmentioned that I think is unique when I talked to my colleagues in our department that have kids that play youth sports is there are youth sports happening all over our community,” Yurachek said. “There are youth baseball games, and youth softball games and travel basketball games. Our coaches sit in their offices on weekends and watch basketball games from across the country that have 10, 12, 15 courts going at one time. There hasn’t been a word said about the success of any of those things. I understand the ages of most of those boys and girls playing those sports, but there are sports happening all over the country right now.”
Yurachek said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and the remainder of decision makers are looking to medical experts for information.
“As Athletic Directors and administrators in this field, we are looking for someone that is a lot smarter than all of us to give us direction,” Yurachek said. “Commissioner Sankey has been incredible throughout, from March to right now. But, he’s not a medical professional.
“You have one medical professional who may tell you something and another tells you something totally different. Some of that has to do with the data. We just don’t know, whether you’re a medical professional or not, enough about this virus to make really good decisions. So, you just have to make the best decisions you can.
“I don’t want to say putting people’s lives in jeopardy is like playing a game of poker, but sometimes you have to make decisions with the information you know and make the best decision possible. It’s kind of like a poker game. You know what you have in your hand, but you don’t know what card is getting ready to get turned over when you’re playing that game. You just have to make the best decisions with the information that you have, and that’s what we are trying to do as administrators. We feel that we will have better information the deeper we go into the summer before making this decision.”
If the SEC attempts to play football this fall there’s always a chance it could be shutdown much like college sports were this past March. Would it be better to never start than play some and then have to cancel?
“Financially, obviously, whatever number of games that we can start and play helps us in a number of areas – the ticket sales piece, the donations piece, sponsorships, licensing, the television revenue with the SEC Network, CBS, as well as ESPN,” Yurachek said. “Even if it’s an abbreviated schedule of eight games, that’s much better for us financially than playing zero games.”
Yurachek had said he was hoping some areas including Texas and Florida were trending better in late July than they were in on July 16 that doesn’t appear to be the case. Both states continue to struggle with the coronavirus. Texas A&M and the University of Florida are obviously in those states.
If someone wants a positive outlook on allowing college sports is that the vast majority of the cases will be more of a roadblock than death sentence. In addition to the Marlins, some other teams have had players test positive and so far none have died. But some are still suffering from some lingering effects of it.
The heart, lungs and kidneys are three areas that people are known to have experienced some complications with following getting COVID-19 and then trying to recover. At least one Boston Red Sox player is still shutdown with a possible heart issue following his battle with the coronavirus.
The clock is ticking on a decision by the SEC as far as college football. My gut feeling is they will play football this fall. But that decision will come from people with the best information possible and trust it enough to move forward not some reporter who has a big gut that may be misleading him on this.