NATE ALLEN

Though not vanishing so fast as the March 11-12 days canceling the 2020 championships and competition in all NCAA spring semester sports conducted from mid-March through June, it seems the NCAA’s fall semester sports slate may soon be erased.

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic canceled the spring sports starting hours before Arkansas’ Wednesday, March 11, first-round victory over Vanderbilt marked the second and ultimately final game of the SEC Basketball Tournament.

That tourney was supposed to conclude with the Sunday, March 15, SEC Tournament Championship game leading into the next week’s never-played NCAA Tournament.

The COVID-19 resurgence, if resurgence is indeed the correct term since the virus seldom entirely abated anywhere in the U.S., looms more likely dooming football and all collegiate fall semester sports from competing this autumn.

SEC athletic directors held a meeting via the Internet Monday knowing last week that the Ivy League entirely abandoned its 2020 fall semester sports schedule. Far closer to the SEC’s economic home, two of its fellow Power Five conferences, the Big Ten and the Pac 12, have canceled their nonconference events for the fall semester and intend playing only competition within the conference.

Power Five conference members SEC, ACC and  Big 12 presumably ponder similar scenarios.

The conference only competition seems a last, and likely forlorn hope, much like the March 11 crumbling from proposing finishing conference basketball tournaments without fans to scrapping the NCAA Tournament bonanza before it could tip off.

Arkansas and Vanderbilt went into their first-round SEC Tournament game told hours before tipping off at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, that Wednesday’s winner would advance to a tournament resuming Thursday playing in front of no fans.

By the March 12 Thursday, the Razorbacks were headed home with the tournament canceled, while the Razorbacks SEC  Men’s and Women’s SEC Indoor Track champions teams were called off the practice track and sent home from the canceled NCAA Indoor Championships that were to be conducted March 13-14 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Their outdoor track seasons were canceled, too, as were all the spring sports and the spring practices for football and other sports working out through their offseason.

SEC schools especially want to play football, the economic engine for their athletic programs and an economic engine for their campuses and nearby businesses, but the national response to the pandemic that has claimed 135,000-plus lives in the United States doesn’t bode well.

From resistance to wearing the masks that health organizations assert would help protect each other from the virus’ contagion to a failure to recognize that too many states too fully reopened for business too soon has massively reproduced the virus.

Especially in many of the SEC’s 11 states, including Arkansas setting recent daily records for cases recorded, while Florida is deemed the current worldwide epicenter with Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all uncomfortably in the too contagious running.

The notion that summer heat would diminish the virus seems a myth given its ongoing run throughout the south and Arizona desert in the southwest.

It and other hopes dashed caused a pessimistic assessment from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey during an ESPN interview last Saturday.

“We put a medical advisory group together in early April with the question, ‘What do we have to do to get back to activity?” Sankey said. “They’ve been a big part of the conversation. But the direct reality is not good and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings. We are running out of time to correct and get things right. As a society, we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”

Later on Twitter, Sankey tweeted: “I want to provide the opportunity for college athletics to be part of the fall, but we need to all consider our behavior to make possible what right now appears very difficult. The direct reality is not good...”That reality indefinitely postponed the SEC Football Media Days that were to start Monday in Atlanta.It’s a reality looming even as Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks and all SEC football teams can increase the allowed weightlifting and conditioning activities to July 24 having footballs on the ground walkthroughs leading into the August start of preseason practice.If the SEC follows the Big Ten and Pac 12 lead canceling nonconference football competition, it would affect the Razorbacks Sept. 5 season-opener against Nevada at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, a Sept. 12 visit to Notre Dame, and Oct. 3 and Nov. 21 games in Fayetteville against Charleston Southern and the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

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