Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Arkansas hopes NCAA track meet not affected by coronavirus delays
Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam speaks Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, during the Razorback Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Lance Harter and Chris Bucknam view the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships they host next March undermined by some of their coaching and administrative colleagues.
“They can shoot themselves in the foot and not even have to aim,” Harter, the Arkansas women's coach, said in disgusted disbelief.
Citing bylaws that with less than 50 percent participation following various conferences withdrawing from competition because of covid-19 concerns, the NCAA cancelled fall sports national championships.
The NCAA controls championship competition in all its sports except the Football Bowl Subdivision.
At Arkansas, and all SEC schools, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball are fall sports that will be without national champions.
They press on. The SEC granted its fall sports modified schedules against SEC schools and others from conferences matching SEC coronavirus protocols.
The abbreviated seasons will culminate with SEC Championships.
Guaranteeing all fall sports athletes eligibility restored through 2021 — which Bucknam and Harter applaud — the NCAA ponders a modified spring slate for soccer and volleyball, capped by NCAA Championships.
Some propose that should apply to cross country this winter before spring’s outdoor track, even as distance runners normally compete in indoor track along with sprinters and those in field events.
Bucknam, who coaches the Razorbacks' men, blanches. An indoor track season distracted with some distance runners competing separately in cross country makes no sense to him or Harter.
“If soccer and volleyball want their NCAA championship in the spring, more power to them,” Bucknam said. “They compete just in the fall. But ours is a year-round sport. Opportunities abound for distance runners with indoor and outdoor track and field. They have plenty of competition.”
At least cross country, which Harter’s Razorbacks won nationally, waged national championships for the 2019-20 academic year.
Sprinters, jumpers, vaulters and throwers have been idle since mid-March. Coronavirus concerns cancelled the NCAA Indoor Championships as qualifiers prepped in Albuquerque, N.M., the day before the meet’s scheduled beginning. The entire outdoor season also was cancelled.
“What about the poor sprinters, jumpers, vaulters and throwers?” Harter said. “They’ve already lost a national championship a year ago and now you’re going to take another national championship away from them with a watered down meet?”
How about trying to run January cross country meets in the frigid Midwest and Northeast?
“A coach from Indiana told me, ‘You run on my cross country course in January, it’s frozen,” Harter said.
Some “factions” with little or no investment in track talk permanent spring semester cross country, Harter and Bucknam said dismayed.
Bucknam and Harter love coaching cross country and their teams are set to run this fall. Harter’s women defend their SEC championship. Bucknam’s Razorbacks potentially could regain their SEC men’s championship narrowly lost the last two years to Ole Miss.
However post the Oct. 30 SEC Cross Country Championships comes time totally track, Bucknam and Harter assert.
The SEC concurs.
“I do know the SEC voted unanimously ‘Let’s support indoor track,'" Harter said. “Cross country has its place, but let’s move on and springboard indoors to a great outdoor.”
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