FAYETTEVILLE — On Thursday, University of Arkansas vice-chancellor and director of athletics Hunter Yurachek talked about what will happen with the four schools we now know the Hogs won’t play in football this fall.
With the SEC, as had been expected, going to a 10-game all-conference games schedule that left Arkansas’ games against Nevada, Notre Dame, Charleston Southern and ULM not happening this fall.
“I talked to three of the four AD of our non-conference opponents and we will work to figure out a solution for each of those whether that’s rescheduling the game in the future,” Yurachek said. “The decision to go to all-Southeastern Conference schedule was not a financial decision as such to save us from paying those guarantees. It again was a decision we thought gave us the best opportunity to have a football season that was uninterrupted.
“Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame) and I have missed each other on multiple times throughout the day. I’ve been busy. He’s busy. And so it would be my hope, because I understand that Razorback fans were looking forward to going to South Bend, Indiana. It’s a very historical stadium and playing Notre Dame there that we can look into our future and football schedules and reschedule that game at Notre Dame. Obviously they are still scheduled to be here in 2025. But I know our fans were looking forward to that trip to South Bend and so I’ll work with Jack to see if we can reschedule that game in South Bend with the Razorbacks in the future.”
Professional baseball is having issues with breakouts of the COVID-19 and having to reschedule games. Has the SEC determined the number of breakouts on a team for a game to be postponed?
“We were trying to get over this first hurdle, which was to decide when our season was going to start and how many games we were going to play,” Yurachek said. “Then we will tackle that as we look at next week and the following weeks. We have until roughly Sept. 15 or so to iron all of that plan out. But that’s been mildly discussed at a very granular level. We’ll get some more details and develop what that plan will look like.”
Arkansas tested its players and staff last week with zero positives. They currently only have two football players in quarantine. Early on some schools were struggling with positive tests, but that seems to have leveled out in recent weeks. Is it that schools are doing a better job making adjustments with this virus?
“Absolutely,” Yurachek said. “I think we have adjusted and I think our student-athletes have adjusted as well. Our student-athletes are having to make some very difficult personal decision that most college students don’t want to make. I mean, we all remember our college experiences, and [they’re) some of the best four years of our lives. Our college students, they want to be out with fellow college students on Dickson Street enjoying what that has to offer. They’re having to make difficult decisions and difficult sacrifices to make sure that we have a football season and a soccer season and a volleyball season and men’s and women’s basketball season.
“I’m so proud of our student-athletes and how they have changed what they’re doing in their personal lives and how they’re making much better decisions, and I think that’s what you’re seeing more than anything across the country, is young men and women making really good choices because they want to play their sports this fall, this winter and next spring.”
Football teams are preparing to do some contact work soon in practice. Yurachek was asked if the positive cases will jump up again?
“Well, we’re getting ready to find that out,” Yurachek said. “I think that September 26 date will also provide us time to figure that piece of it out. We don’t know, because nobody has practiced football that way. Not in the NFL, not in college football, not in high school football. So we’re going to learn a lot over the next couple of weeks as we begin to practice.”
Some observers have speculated once the regular students return to campus then the athletes might be more tempted to head to Dickson Street with them. Any worries about that?
“I don’t,” Yurachek said. “I think our student-athletes understand what is at stake for them. I think they more than anybody want their fall sports season to happen. And I think they’ve seen, as we’ve had some student-athletes that have tested positive, we’ve had others that have been contact tracing and been in quarantine, and they don’t want to experience that. I think they’re really doing a great job.
“Look, they’re having a social life. We’ve kind of created some social things that we’re doing for them. We’ve created some golf nights for them up at Top Golf. We’re having movie nights over in Bud Walton Arena for them. We’ve given them maps to all the hiking and biking trails in the area.
“We’re trying to create social opportunities for them to do some other things that they normally wouldn’t do, and they’re taking advantage of those things, and they’re doing them as fellow teammates together. It’s been really cool to see that evolve and happen over the past several weeks.”
The season will start on Saturday, Sept. 26. The Razorbacks will play five games in Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the same number on the road. So far Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss are known to be slated to play in Fayetteville. One more school from the SEC East will also come to Razorback Stadium.