NORMAN — Oklahoma and Texas’ annual football game is the centerpiece of the State Fair of Texas.
But what if the fair gets benched?
The State Fair of Texas announced it will decide by “mid- to late-July” about whether to hold the event in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fair runs Sept. 25 through Oct. 18. OU and Texas are scheduled to play Oct. 10.
“Every day more businesses begin to open, and more information is coming from experts on how businesses can operate and keep customers safe,” the release said. “Over the coming weeks, we will see what that means for large events.
“Discussions surrounding the 2020 State Fair of Texas and what that may or may not look like continue on a daily basis. If the Fair opens, it will look different from every other year in order to ensure a safe environment.”
That would include limited attendance, pre-entry screenings and social distancing, according to the fair’s release.
As Texas moves forward with opening its economy, it’s experiencing a spike in positive COVID cases. The state saw an increase of 165 hospitalizations from Monday to Tuesday as it hit a new state high of 2,518.
OU coach Lincoln Riley was asked specifically earlier this month about whether he was concerned the fair would affect the OU-Texas game.
“As far as the Texas game and state fair is concerned, I don’t know that will have a huge impact on the football team and our players,” Riley said. “Our deal is kind of the same no matter what, we’re going to drive somewhere, go into the locker room and then we’re going to go out on the field and play. I don’t know that would have any more concerns there than at any of our other games, at least off the top of my head.”
• Trending up: As expected, the NCAA Division I Council approved a preseason plan for college football Wednesday.
The council provided specifics for schools whose seasons begin Sept. 5, the date OU and Missouri State are scheduled to play.
“Assuming a first game on Sept. 5, the (preseason) model begins summer access activities July 13 and adds meetings & walk-throughs on July 24. Preseason practice begins Aug. 7,” the council stated in a release.
• Trending down: Most officials have been optimistic about college football remaining on course, the one exception being another nationwide virus outbreak.
Now, COVID-19 cases are rising in some areas. The state of Oklahoma’s seven-day average is moving up, with 259 new cases reported Wednesday, though the hospitalization rate is stable.
It’s worth noting: College coaches and administrators have expected positive tests among players considering the large scope of the virus. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has gone on record saying he believes the season will face interruptions.
But an outbreak within a single program is problematic on a number of levels.
Kansas State is working through a scare within its team. According to the Wichita Eagle, citing a report from the Riley County Health Department, four players have now tested positive.
That’s better than anticipated earlier this week. A clerical error within the health department initially identified six positive cases, the Wichita Eagle, reported. The department told the paper anything more than five positive tests on the team would have been considered an outbreak.
• Dates to consider: July 1 (approaching quickly, it’s the date OU players are scheduled to return to campus for voluntary workouts).
• Notable: The New York Times reported four college football games involving historically black colleges have been canceled, including one that affects Langston University, located about 30 miles north of Edmond.
Southern University-Tennessee State on Sept. 5 in Detroit and Jackson State-Tennessee State Sept. 12 in Memphis were both canceled, according to the paper. Jackson State’s Sept. 5 season opener against Langston was canceled because NAIA schools aren’t allowed to play before Sept. 12.
That’s not indicative of a larger trend at this point, but shows that smaller schools will have difficulty navigating this season from a financial standpoint.
• Quotable: Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, to ESPN: “My motto has been, ‘Predict nothing and prepare for everything.’ Anybody who tells you they think they know right now is making it up.”