Like It Is:

SEC puts itself to test by allowing athletes

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, May 24, 2020
Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, talks about the decision to cancel the remaining games in the SEC NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference tournament was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, talks about the decision to cancel the remaining games in the SEC NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference tournament was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

A day after it was announced that legendary Auburn coach Pat Dye had tested positive for covid-19, the SEC ruled to allow some athletes back on college campuses June 8.

The SEC may have drawn a line in the sand, or stepped over the first hurdle, or just stepped in it.

Only time will tell.

Put your trusty scribe in the category of those in favor of playing college football sooner rather than later.

This is going to be a huge test of having more than 100 athletes return to share the workout facilities, to eat together and sleep in the same rooms or apartments.

Apparently, college football is a $4 billion industry and a great boon to the economy.

The negative — and we might as well get this already reported bad news out there — is the players are going to be tested only when they arrive on campus.

Any other tests will be administered only if someone is showing symptoms.

The problem is by the time someone shows symptoms, they already may have infected others. Apparently, temperatures also will be taken before and after activities every day.

One of the biggest issues is monitoring the athletes, and the SEC presidents and chancellors stressed education about the disease to the point of a three-class mandatory attendance.

These are young people who sometimes think they are invincible, particularly if they have too much to drink.

The good news is that if there are no major flare-ups on campus, students will be allowed back. That also means a good chance fans will be allowed to attend games.

Not all the fans. It will have to be governed.

A family of four can sit together (they already have been exposed to each other) while remaining 6 feet away from another family.

The exact number of spectators will have to be worked out by someone with a better calculator than mine.

Of course, fans will be wearing masks, something that should be mandatory in grocery stores but continues to be a problem as people stroll down the aisles with no mask, talking on the phone or to their spouse. One guy was even whistling.

Anyway, it appears the University of Arkansas took no chances in moving forward with getting athletes back on campus.

UA officials had discussions with the Arkansas Department of Health, the UA’s environmental health department and doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek has kept Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and the UA board of trustees in the loop every step of the way.

Maybe it is with a small sense of irony that this is the week the SEC usually has its spring meetings and announces the $40 million-plus payday for bowls, NCAA tournaments and SEC Network money.

The meetings were postponed this year, and the checks are going to be light.

No doubt economics are playing a factor in the return of the athletes, but it doesn’t appear anything was taken lightly. No stone went unturned.

Kevin Trainor, the UA associate athletic director for communications, was contacted last week about the press box, and he said his staff and CoSida — an organization of sports information directors — already were discussing it.

I love working with Bob Holt and Tom Murphy, but for now I’d prefer to do it from 6 feet away and while wearing a mask.

These administrators and athletes in the SEC have a chance to make a great statement for this country by passing this test, and that’s what it is, a test.

Now is not the time to get careless.

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