FAYETTEVILLE — Football has been the focus of whether college sports will return this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the economic engine for athletic departments and generates millions of dollars at the Power 5 conference level.
But what about those other fall sports that football revenue helps finance?
In the SEC, fall sports in addition to football are men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and volleyball.
“We’re going to be permitted to play soccer and volleyball and run cross country,” University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said last week in a Zoom call with the media. “We’re going to have a full fall sports season. We’re not just going to play football.”
The NCAA Board of Governors met Tuesday to consider canceling or postponing fall sports championships in all three divisions, but no decision was made. The board is expected to reconvene today.
The NCAA has no control over regular-season competition and none whatsoever in major college football, but canceling or delaying championship events it sponsors could influence what conferences do.
The Arkansas men’s and women’s cross country teams swept titles at their first SEC meet in 1991. The UA men have won 25 of a possible 29 SEC titles in cross country, and the women have won 20 of 29, including the last seven.
The Razorbacks women’s cross country team won its first NCAA championship last year.
Arkansas also won the SEC regular-season championship in soccer last fall.
The SEC office announced July 14 that the start of competition for cross country, soccer and volleyball would be postponed until at least Aug. 31. SEC member schools will continue to follow the guidance of the conference’s Return to Activity and Medical Advisory Task Force, according to a news release, and the NCAA’s Resocialization of College Sports Guidelines.
Yurachek said the SEC athletic directors this week will discuss when to start their fall seasons in sports other than football.
“We will start focusing on what those seasons look like … and have a plan that we’ll put in front of our coaches,” Yurachek said. “Obviously, we’ve got a number of decisions still to be made moving forward.
“We’ve got football — at least a plan in place. We’ve got to establish what that schedule looks like, and we’ve got to work on soccer, volleyball and cross country.”
College tennis players and golfers traditionally have played in fall tournaments.
“You may have seen the ACC … has allowed their tennis [players] and golfers to play unattached fall seasons,” Yurachek said. “That would not be my desire in the Southeastern Conference, and we’re going to see if we can have a fall golf season, because that leads to their spring rankings.”
The NCAA has allowed baseball to play two exhibition games the previous two falls, but Yurachek said that might not be possible this year.
“I don’t foresee that happening right now,” he said. “I just think there’s so much going on within our departments, and we’re managing so many different things. I don’t see us adding more events like fall baseball games to the schedule.
“We’re doing everything we can to play football, soccer, volleyball, cross country, and getting men’s and women’s basketball started up on time.”