Countdown to Razorback football at 10 if coronavirus cooperates

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman /

The clock is ticking on the start of college football season.

There is a plan in place for games to begin nine weeks from now with a few teams scheduled to play the weekend of Aug. 29 and the rest of the teams following with their openers by Sept. 5.

That’s 10 weeks until the Arkansas Razorbacks are scheduled to kick off against Nevada on Sept. 5 at Razorback Stadium. While the start time hasn’t yet been assigned, it could be as early as 11 a.m. or as late as 7 p.m. The television networks will make that call.

2020 Arkansas Football Schedule

Sept. 5 – Nevada
Sept. 12 – at Notre Dame
Sept. 19 – at Mississippi State
Sept. 27 – Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Oct. 3 – Charleston Southern
Oct. 10 – Alabama
Oct. 17 – LSU
Oct. 31 – Tennessee
Nov. 7 – at Auburn
Nov. 14 – Ole Miss
Nov. 21 – Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 28 – Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City

I remain optimistic there will be a college football season even if it looks like the coronavirus does not want to cooperate.

While things don’t look promising with the virus spiking in Northwest Arkansas over the last three weeks, what we have to remember is that 10 weeks is a long time.

Ten weeks ago at the end of April, hot spots in the Northeast were nightmarish, but now we see New York and New Jersey slowly getting back to business. One hopes and prays the spikes we are experiencing across the South, Southwest, and West Coast will be contained by late July and early August so that it will be an easier decision for the Power 5 Conferences and their FCS brethren to make the call to play as scheduled.

So far, the shot callers for college sports have been patient in making decisions. No doubt, plans are in place to proceed, but as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said back in April and May, decisions for September don’t have to be made today. However, we are getting closer and closer.

Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek said that it will be late July or early August before he will announce how tickets will be allocated to allow social distancing in the stadium.

I think it’s safe to say there will be social distancing at college football games this fall around the country. Full capacity may still be a talking point, but it’s not going to happen. The question is will stadiums work at half capacity, two-thirds, one-third, or possibly a quarter capacity?

The SEC has been very resolute about playing the season as scheduled, but based on what we see happening around us and around the country that may be more uncertain now than it was a month ago.

But again, we have to remind ourselves that the landscape can change a great deal in the matter of a month to six weeks when definite decisions will have to be made.

That being said, another step forward in the plan for Razorbacks athletics to return to action will be taking place over the weekend as the UA will allow its freshman student-athletes for fall and winter sports to join their teammates for voluntary workouts on Monday.

These workouts are voluntary in name only. Every Hog who plans on playing this fall is expected to participate willingly.

Since most teams were denied spring football practice due to the mid-March closure of college sports because of the virus, the NCAA is allowing more preparation time this summer.

On July 13, coaches can begin working with their players in weight training and conditioning and film review as a team. Eleven days later, the Razorbacks can begin walkthrough practices and team meetings for up to 20 hours a week on July 24.

There won’t be pads or helmets, but there will be a ball, and finally first-year head coach Sam Pittman and his staff will get their first truly good look at their student-athletes actually as football players on the field. Two weeks later on Aug. 7, practice begins for real.

It’s certainly not an ideal situation, especially for a first-year staff, but all the other SEC teams are working under the same restrictions and circumstances.

After going without Razorback sports since the middle of March, just thinking and talking about the return of the Hogs to the playing field excites me like it does so many others.

So often Razorback sports has been a tonic to help sooth what ails this state. Win or lose, the Razorbacks give us something to rally around and a common cause for so many of us to bond over. It’s generally as positive thing.

During the good and great seasons, we celebrate collectively, and during the harsh ones, we moan and groan together, and, yes, look forward to next year.

Right now, the Razorbacks have me looking forward to Sept. 5 and the Nevada game. I’m not sure I’ve anticipated a season opener as much since I was a little kid.

I’m just hoping, crossing my fingers, and praying that the coronavirus cooperates and allows this football season to happen.