Its July 31, and the ongoing saga of “will they play or will they not play” continues for Arkansas high school contact sports. As time grows shorter for the normal resumption of fall contact sports in the fall, today is the day that many have pointed to as the latest date a decision can be made by Arkansas governor Asa Hutchison to allow contact sports to progress to their next steps of preparation starting Monday, August 3.
In the background of Governor Hutchison’s decision is the current state of COVID-19 positivity rates and the decisions of other organizations around him, such as the Southeastern Conference’s decision to play football in the fall with a delayed starting date of September 26. As with any major decision that affects something that is deeply cared for and valued by citizens, such as sports fans in the state, the governor’s decision involves the facts of the decision related to medical science and epidemiology, the precedence established by other organizations, and the optics of the decision to give the impression that the right decision has been made for the benefit of all concerned.
If high school contact sports were not allowed to be played in the fall, for example, it would be hard to explain how 33,000 fans would be allowed in Razorback Stadium, along with players, coaches, support personnel, etc. and not allow much smaller gatherings at high school sporting events. How could college football be allowed to play and high school not? Can the “optics” be made to look good to all concerned? Can a decision be made to show that all precautions have been made to protect the participants and the fans? These factors appear to be part of the decision made by the SEC to delay the start to September 26 and to reduce the season schedules to ten conference games only. Arkansas high schools could take a similar approach of starting the season in mid-September with a conference only schedule. But who knows? As with every day this summer, we are still awaiting a decision and explanation on all of this from Governor Hutchison.
Under normal circumstances, Arkansas high school football coaches would be issuing equipment to players to begin practices in shorts, t-shirts, and helmets starting Monday, August 3. In fact, according to Twitter, some coaches have issued equipment in hopeful anticipation of an announcement today from the governor’s office that would permit them to start and not lose any more time in preparation of their teams.
If I were to predict the outcome, I would predict an approval to play with a delayed start somewhere after the Labor Day weekend. Perhaps a reduced number of games, and a wide-variety of guidelines for on-field participants such as band, cheerleaders, etc. And who knows how fans will be affected?
But, I have no source for this, and this is simply my opinion and prediction. I am like every other fan in the state just waiting to see. I hope that there is a way to protect everyone involved and give our kids, who have been working their hearts out since June 1, the chance to play. How unfair would all of this be to allow our kids to work so hard in June and July when there was, in reality, very little chance of letting them play? For this reason alone, I find it almost impossible not to let them play.
So all of us will find out soon. And hopefully, today is THE day. If it is, Resident Press will be here to update our readers.