Oklahoma football may never be the same. Not this coming season, anyway.
And the idea that there will even be a 2020 college football season is still somewhat presumptuous, despite the best efforts and hopes of a lot of dedicated, hard-working people who are doing everything they can to ensure that there will be football in the fall.
The one thing we do know at this point is that whenever football returns, we can expect a different environment for both the players and the fans. Another stake that has already been placed firmly in the ground is: Unless students are allowed back on campus, the chances for real-time college football are nil and none.
It is understandable that athletic directors and school officials around the country are turning over every rock and weighing all the options in a genuine effort to play football in the fall. Football, after all, is the biggest revenue sport. The income received from football and basketball pays for all of the other athletic programs funded by the institution.
All pathways to a workable solution, however, in planning for future activities in the COVID-19 world we are all currently adapting to, must ensure that under no circumstances will the health and safety of all involved be short-circuited. That is a really tall hurdle to get over.
OU president Joseph Harroz Jr., who in the past week had the interim tag removed from his title, addressed the OU Board of Regents last Friday, the prime subject being the university’s response to the continuing threats posed by the global coronavirus outbreak.
Harroz told the regents the planning that is underway anticipates that there will be athletics in the fall, but cautioned, “We do not control our destiny in athletics. We’re part of a conference and part of the NCAA.
“I can tell you we’re working on it daily,” he said. “The intent is to have, and the belief right now is that there will be sports in the fall.”
In what form and exactly how all of this is going to get done is the $64 million question that every university president and athletic administrator is grappling with at the moment. And with different health and safety restrictions and timelines being put in place by the federal government, the individual states and the local communities, it makes the planning that much more difficult.
Then there are public health officials telling us to plan for the likelihood of a COVID-19 recurrence as the weather turns colder in the fall. I think you get the picture of the enormity of the task ahead.
So, again, assuming that there will be an Oklahoma football season in some form in the fall, what might it look like?
Oklahoma is scheduled to open the season on Sept. 5 at home against Missouri State. But what is the season doesn’t start on time. Will the missed game(s) be cancelled or rescheduled?
If the season gets started but is disrupted or shutdown — much like what happened with the 2020 spring sports season because of the coronavirus crisis — how will a conference champion be determined?
At least one major conference, the Pac-12, is considering going with a conference-only fall schedule.
What if one or more players test positive for COVID-19 before a game? The answer to this question may vary depending on the state. Would the entire team need to be quarantined? With a 14-day quarantine period, what might happen with future game dates on the schedule? And how about the immediate game itself? Is it cancelled or possibly forfeited?
So many questions…so few answers.
What about keeping the football germ free? How often will it need to be sanitized or swapped out?
Will fans be allowed to attend the game? If so, how many would be practical given social distancing requirements?
Regardless how the fan issue is addressed, it is nearly a certainty that Oklahoma’s streak of 129 consecutive home sellouts will end this season.
In order to follow social distancing guidelines — which are certain to remain in effect, probably through the remainder of the year — will the players on the sidelines be spaced out the entire length of the field, or how will that work?
If the games will be played without fans in the stands, will crowd noise be piped into the stadiums to simulate a crowd atmosphere?
So many questions…so few answers. And 114 days and counting until the planned kickoff of the 2020 Oklahoma football season — or so we are all hoping.