69.1 F
Wichita
Thursday, August 6, 2020

College Football Schedules Unsettled As Coronavirus Cases Spike In Kansas And The U.S.

Sports Headlines

NCAA Division III Presidents Council Cancels Fall Championships

NCAA Division III championships in fall sports for 2020-21 are canceled. With the health and safety of the division’s student-athletes, coaches, athletics administrators and communities...

NCAA DII Presidents Council Cancels Fall 2020 Championships

Division II’s seven fall 2020 championships are canceled, the Division II Presidents Council decided Wednesday due to the operational, logistical and financial challenges presented...

Kansas Men’s Basketball to Host Stephen F. Austin Dec. 29

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas men’s basketball will host Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 29, 2020, inside historic Allen Fieldhouse, replacing KU’s previously scheduled Dec....

Big 12 Conference Adopts 9+1 Football Schedule

The Big 12 Board of Directors announced that Conference football programs will play a “9+1” schedule for the 2020 season consisting of nine conference...

Big 12 Virtual Football Media Day Cancelled for August 3

The Big 12 Conference is cancelling its Virtual Football Media Day presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors. It is yet to be determined if...
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids, and graduated from Valley Heights High School in May of 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications.After stops at KFRM and KCLY radio in Clay Center, he joined KNDY in 2002 as a board operator and play by play announcer. Derek is now responsible for the digital content of Dierking Communications, Inc. six radio stations.In 2005 Derek joined the staff of KCFX radio in Kansas City as a production coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, which airs on over 94 radio stations across 12 Midwest states and growing. In 2018 he became the Studio Coordinator at the Cumulus Kansas City broadcast center for Kansas City Chiefs Football.

By Greg Echlin – Kansas News Service

BALDWIN CITY, Kansas — College athletics departments in Kansas are needing to make a call as the number of coronavirus cases climb across the country and in their own ranks: Cancel fall sports, delay them until the spring, try in-conference games only or something in between.

At the center of it all is football — the high-contact sport that brings in money from the top college level to the small schools.

Dozens of schools have reported coronavirus cases among team members at voluntary workouts. And earlier this summer, Kansas State became one of the first major college teams in the country to shut the workouts down because of a high number of positive tests. The University of Kansas soon followed suit.

Already, three of the five major college conferences (Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12) have said they’ll only play against teams in their conference. The SEC will push back fall sports until at least Aug. 31. The Ivy and Patriot leagues are calling off their fall seasons entirely. The National Junior College Athletic Association voted to move football to the spring.

The Big 12, which includes KU and K-State, is expected to make its decision at the end of the month.

Without the money from big-time sports, universities that are already hurting financially after having to shift fully online in the spring will suffer. But so will the college towns.

Baker University drives the economy in Baldwin City, Kansas, a town of more than 4,700 that’s about a half-hour from Lawrence. Of the roughly 800-plus students on campus at Baker, 66% play one of the school’s 24 varsity sports.

In early June, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced that all of its schools — Baker included — would be reduced to nine regular-season games from 11. It’s still uncertain if fans will be allowed to attend the home games because the NAIA is leaving it up to schools to follow state and local requirements.

Nate Houser is Baker University’s athletic director.
CREDIT GREG ECHLIN / KCUR 89.3

“The potential of not having our family at games, it’s something that’s going to be very, very different,” Baker athletics director Nate Houser said.

Already, Baldwin City’s 63rd annual Maple Leaf Festival has been cancelled for the fall. Apryl Strawn, the manager of Jo’s Diner in town, said the possibility of football without fans could be devastating to their business.

“It’ll be awful,” Strawn said. “It’ll be absolutely awful.”

The athletes’ health vs. financial health 

Whether football is played in Baldwin City or at KU, the issue is the same: How do you avoid transmission of coronavirus in a sport where you’re lined up next to each other and hit other players constantly?

It’s a question KU Director of Athletics Jeff Long has been pondering all summer, and hasn’t been able to answer.

“We don’t know what the impact of practicing, closed-quarters hitting, tackling, all those things will have on a team,” Long said during a Kansas City Public Library virtual forum last month.

Players came back to campus for voluntary workouts from all over the country, including Texas, which has seen a dramatic spike in cases.

The field before last year’s KU vs. K-State rivalry game.
CREDIT GREG ECHLIN / KCUR 89.3 FILE PHOTO

But epidemiologist Dr. Chris Hostler, who is a consultant for the NFL and the Big 12 (which KU and K-State are a part of), said coronavirus can be anywhere.

“We’re going to continue to have athletes and staff who are positives, who are coming from different areas of the country,” said Hostler, who is based in Durham, North Carolina. “Or even just remaining in their communities.”

And there’s another thing to consider: If any scholarship athlete, man or woman, chooses to sit out this fall as a health precaution, would he or she lose that full ride to college? The Pac-12 says no. With the Big 12 leaving it up to its members — K-State says it will honor scholarships but is still working out the terms of the language, while KU hadn’t provided its policy by the time this story went to print.

But more than anything, college administrators are aware of the added financial pinch if there are no college football games this fall.

“When people ask, ‘Why is it so important for you to play football, play basketball?” It’s to generate the revenue to fund that program,” Long said.

A major college football program like KU or K-State generates an average of $78 million according to a recent study by USA Today.

Within the Big 12, the Texas schools (Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU) figure to already see less money. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently mandated that no schools can have more than 50% fan capacity at home games.

But Hostler said what’s happening in Texas won’t dictate a uniform set of recommendations.

“What happens in West Virginia is going to be very different than what happens a couple states away in Iowa or in Oklahoma,” he said.

Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter.

Kansas Headlines

Kansas’ U.S. Senate Race Is Set As Marshall Beats Kobach For GOP Nod; Watkins Out In 2nd District

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas’ biggest race of the evening was one of the first to be decided: U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall secured the Republican...

Kansas Total Tax Collections $484.6 Million Ahead of July of Last Fiscal Year

TOPEKA—The State of Kansas starts Fiscal Year 2021 by surpassing its total tax-only collections by $484.6 million compared to July of last fiscal year....

AG Derek Schmidt Urges Federal Action To Increase Access, Affordability For Remdesivir

TOPEKA – (August 4, 2020) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today urged federal agencies to exercise special legal authority to increase the availability...

KDA Update on Vesicular Stomatitis Virus 7-31-2020

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Updated situation report on the ongoing outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) in Kansas: Total premises which have tested positive for...

Feds Say Filth, Hazards At Kansas Group Homes Put Foster Care Children At Risk

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen - Kansas News Service Kansas let foster care children live in group homes with broken windows, mold, exposed electrical wiring, trashed porches...

Kansas News Service

Kansas’ U.S. Senate Race Is Set As Marshall Beats Kobach For GOP Nod; Watkins Out In 2nd District

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas’ biggest race of the evening was one of the first to be decided: U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall secured the Republican...

Feds Say Filth, Hazards At Kansas Group Homes Put Foster Care Children At Risk

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen - Kansas News Service Kansas let foster care children live in group homes with broken windows, mold, exposed electrical wiring, trashed porches...

Kansas K-12 Districts Can Start Class On Time After State Board Rejects Governor’s Order To Delay

By Stephan Bisaha - Kansas News Service WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas’ elementary, middle and high schools will reopen for in-person instruction in August, despite Gov. Laura...

Kansas Governor Says Masks Are Non-Negotiable In Schools And Pleads For Delaying Classes

By Brian Grimmett - Kansas News Service WICHITA, Kansas — Students, teachers and staff members at K-12 schools in Kansas will wear masks, use hand sanitizer...

Kansas Prisons Prepare For Possible Second Coronavirus Outbreak Behind Bars

By Nomin Ujiyediin - Kansas News Service LAWRENCE, Kansas — As an inmate at the Wichita Work Release Facility with only a few months left on...