Editor’s note: This editorial expresses the views of the Log Cabin Democrat. The editorial board is composed of Frank Leto, Jeanette Anderton and Alex Kienlen.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday the state is moving forward with fall sports – football, volleyball and cheerleading – at secondary schools.
“Part of school are the sports and other extracurricular activities that go with school,” he said, adding that hearing students and their parents talk about the difference it makes in their lives are what convinced him.
Football teams across the state were instructed to continue with no-contact team drills through Aug. 7. The governor said the current plan was to have contact drills start the following week.
The Log Cabin Democrat acknowledges the importance of extra-curricular activities – students who participate in them tend to have greater academic achievements, fewer disciplinary actions, better attendance and higher self-esteem.
However, we think the start of contact sports should be pushed until 4-6 weeks after school starts to better gauge where schools are with COVID-19 positivity rates.
Waiting until then would give the state more time to collect data and make a more informed decision. The governor indicated there could be changes along the way based on those.
“We will learn what adjustments need to be made and we will improve our protocols to have fall sports in the safest capacity possible,” he said.
The Log Cabin Democrat would suggest to instead push back the date for contact sports, much like he did with the school start date, rather than have a false start.
While some college conferences have made schedule changes – the Southeastern Conference announced a 10-game, conference-only schedule earlier this week – there have been no talks about changes to football schedules on the secondary level as of Friday afternoon.
University of Central Arkansas Athletic Director Brad Teague confirmed to the Log Cabin Democrat on Friday the Bears’ season will start as scheduled on Aug. 29 against Austin Peay State University in Montgomery, Alabama.
“We’re still full-on,” Teague said, noting the only change to the schedule is the planned Sept. 5 game against the University of Missouri because the SEC nixed non-conference games. Teague said UCA is trying to find a replacement for the game and hoping to fill it with Arkansas State University or another school in the Sun Belt Conference.
As for fans at both levels – collegiate and secondary – the governor said stadiums would need to adhere to the large outdoor venue guidelines set by the Arkansas Department of Health.
Teague said the ADH guidelines would allow for two-thirds capacity, or 67 percent, but that because of the size and layout of Estes Stadium, UCA would likely need to stick with 33-50 percent capacity in order to allow fans to socially distance properly.
While we’re on the subject of fall activities, the Log Cabin Democrat vehemently opposes delaying Election Day and finds the suggestion to do so absurd.