It is time once again for our weekly “Ask Mike” segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics. Below is the transcript of this week’s Q & A with Mike.
Q. Okay let’s start thing off with our weekly Covid-19 update.
A. There’s been no reports of new Covid-spikes among teams. In fact USC, which is in the middle of a Covid outbreak in Los Angeles, tested everybody last week including coaches and staff members and reported no positive tests. Major League Baseball has started up and we know that College football is keeping a close eye on what happens with profession sports. For the most part things went well last week but the Marlins do have a problem. They played a series in Philadelphia. Three players have tested positive there so they delayed coming back to Miami. They’re supposed to play Baltimore today in Miami. It looks like that game is going to be canceled. Also this week phase three of the college football opening begins. That will involve walk though practices with a football as schools like Arkansas with new coaching staffs go through their offensive plays and defensive schemes. The next step is August camp coming up the second week of next month. That would be full scale, full speed practices. That’s the biggie. We’ll see if that happens on time. The other big news is Oklahoma asking for and getting permission from the NCAA to push their season open up a week to the last week in August. Oklahoma said they did it to have more flexibility in making adjustments to the schedule once the season starts but some like me are asking, if it’s okay to start the season in late August, why can’t these teams play a full 12 game schedule? Of course the NCAA could always come back later and say no, not a good idea. Push your season back not move it up.
Q. Okay now on to our first question from Hogville members. Lanny Asks: How do you feel about only playing conference football games with a rebuilding team. Coach Pittman was dealt a hand from the bottom.
A. I hope they’re able to play a full schedule because if they take non conference games off the table Arkansas’ chances of getting some badly needed wins may be off the table. And there may be worse news because there has been some talk that if there is a non conference game played it could be the Notre Dame game, That’s in South Bend. That would be a tough season opener for this football program under a new staff that had no spring football. much better to play Nevada first, learn a lot about how these players fit in to the new system and then play Notre Dame,
Q. MuskogeeHogFan says: It has been rumored that several teams around the country are seeking games with previously unscheduled opponents to potentially fill-in their schedules that have been changed due to unanticipated cancellations. What about Arkansas?
A. So far there has not been a team on Arkansas schedule that has canceled that game or their season. I’m assuming that if it happened those games would not be made up. Like the Nevada game we mentioned. But the next time we Zoom Hunter Yurachek we’ll ask him about that.
Q. hobhog says: SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey seems pretty negative when discussing fall football possibilities compared to the ADs I’ve heard from around SEC. Who has the real power to make the call? Sankey or school administrators?
A. The conference makes the call but I couldn’t help notice Hunter Yurachek saying in his last Zoom appearance that he thought the decision to cancel college baseball was made way too soon. I took that as a shot at Sankey. You’re right. Sankey has been saying a lot of stuff about the Covid spike with the general public and not enough about the fact that the teams don’t seem to have that spike and the players who have tested positive but have not gotten sick. We’d have to be in those meeting to know the dynamics but this is the SEC. Football drives all the rest of the sports involved. It also helps the enrollment at the every SEC school. Not playing the season would be a disaster. Based on what he’s said I’m not sure he totally gets that. However, it could be that Sankey has been making these statements about the season being in jeopardy to try to influence fans across the south the observe the various COVID safety rules. I hope that’s it.
Q. WooooPig88 asks: Any update from football practices or when we will hear from Coach Pittman again? There doesn’t seem to be much info coming out.
A. We have made a request that coach Pittman gives us an update on the walk through practices. The university has done an outstanding job of making coaches and players available to the media during this COVID crisis. I’m pretty sure that he will be more than happy to discuss how it’s going with these phase three practices. I look for that to happen in the next few days.
Q. #hammerdown says: There has been a lot of talk about a conference only schedule. Would it be better for Arkansas to cancel the season than to have to play an SEC only schedule?
A. Absolutely not. Canceling the season would be an economic disaster. I think the fans would understand how difficult that situation would be. They’re not stupid. Most would look for signs of improvement and be happy for that even if most of the games ended up in losses. I’m sure not willing to concede at this point that this team is going to go “O- for” like Morris did that last two season. So If they win a SEC game or two and show improvement, not having three non conference wins wouldn’t matter that much.
Q. Fuzzy Hog wants to know: With no fans in the stands do you think it will help the Razorbacks with away games?
A. Great question. If this were that every other season where the Hogs play at Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge think it would be a positive. It’s not. But I still think it could help. Specifically I’m looking at Mississippi State. That’s a team with a new coaching staff and they lost a lot of players from a season ago. Believe it or not, if you haven’t been there, Starkville is one of the tougher environments in the SEC. Their fans are very loud and those cowbells make it tougher. So not having fans for that game, or even if the crowd is limited, on September 19th, If the Nevada game is not played, that just might be Sam Pittman’s first win at Arkansas, breaking that long SEC losing streak. Missouri ? It’s not one of the tougher SEC environments but that’s another conference game that’s looks to be winnable and with no crowd, that might make the difference. Auburn is another game Arkansas could benefit from if there’s no crowd. That is a really tough place to play. Might not make any difference in that game but who knows? Would be great to had Gus and his pal Chad Morris an “L” in front of a TV nationwide audience.
Q. parallaxpig asks: What do you think the protocol will be after a starter on a team test positive after a game? Currently it is a minimum 10 day quarantine. Also, do you think they will quarantine every player that was on field with that player?
A. I think it would be very rare for a player to test negative before a game but positive after that game. If it happens it’s anybody guess how it would be handled. I know what I would do. I would monitor the other players the following week for symptoms, test them right before the next game and play everybody that tests negative.
Q. Mike_e asks: Has virtual attendance been brought up at all? You could pay a small amount and have your name added to the list for that game. At $10 a name a fan base of 100,00 could give a cool million to their team for every game.
A. Right now Arkansas is still trying to figure out a way to have fans. Season ticket holders are telling me that there will be no general admission tickets sold. So with 30,00 season tickets sold that’s a little over a third of the stadium capacity. With masks and distancing they’re trying to make it work. I’m sure it will depend on the COVID numbers at the end of next month. However virtual attendance is being used in major league baseball and it might be something that Arkansas would want to do if there are no fans. Alyssa you’re a Dodgers fan. You have experience with that. Tell us how it works.
Q. nchogg says: I know there is a lot of skepticism about fall football. I think it will happen. What are your thoughts.
A. I agree with you. It’s one thing to speculate about not doing it but the economic consequences would be huge. I’ve said it earlier, not just for the athletic departments but for the academic side. There are plenty of safeguards being discusses behind the scenes to convince me the players will be safe, especially since people 25 and under with no underlying conditions almost never get hospitalized.
Q. We’re gonna end with a non COVID question just to lighten things up. Jules Winnfield asks: What is the loudest stadium moment you have experienced?
A. I’d like to say in Little Rock or Fayetteville but it was at Tennessee in the 2015 game against Arkansas. The Vols ran the opening kickoff back. Stopped Arkansas and quickly scored again. The noise on the field was ear splitting. One hundred thousand going nuts. And then one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen happened. Badanon Allen came back out of the field. Got the team calmed down and took the offense 85 yards for a touchdown. The game started to turn around and by the 4th quarter the crowd was dead. I mean dead. People were leaving the stadium. That game convinced me that regardless of a home crowd advantage players can control their own destiny.