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Ferd’s Words | Sports

By Ferd Lewis

April 22, 2020

If you subscribe to Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson’s reasoning, we’re probably looking at an on or about July 1 decision as to whether the University of Hawaii football season will kick off on schedule.

That’s about the closest to a ballpark estimate yet by any athletic administrator given the wide uncertainty of so many things impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked about key dates for insight in determining a start for the college football season, Thompson said on a conference video Tuesday, “Potentially, if you go back to an eight-week preparation for college football to resume and the historical Labor Day weekend opening in college football, that might be the first barometer. So, sometime early in July a decision would need to be made that we were going to start the season on the Labor Day weekend.”

The Labor Day period that Thompson referenced has 81 games scheduled between Sept. 3 and 7 when most major college teams begin their season.

But UH is one of 14 teams that will be debuting as much as a week earlier on Aug. 29 in the so-called “Week Zero” window, when the Rainbow Warriors are scheduled to play Arizona in Tucson.

Add to that UH is among a handful of schools that had their entire spring sessions canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions and the Rainbow Warriors, who are operating with a new coaching staff, will require a longer-than-normal preseason training camp. Previously, teams have been permitted as many as 15 practices spread over a month in the spring and 25 in the summer, plus coaching interaction.

In the video released by the MWC office in Colorado, Thompson said most coaches want six to eight weeks to prepare for their season openers after having been separated from their players since March.

But a lot of the decision about when they will be able to gather their teams hinges on the question of when schools will deem it safe enough to allow students to return to campus for classes, not just sports practices.

“The campus will have all the say (when athletes can return),” Thompson said. “Unless they are in full mode with dormitories and housing and all the other facilities that are open, we won’t have college athletics. We will not have college athletics until the campuses are open.”

Thompson said, “I think it has to be all or nothing. I cannot imagine that we would bring football players back and not allow the other sports to come back, one person’s opinion.”

Some schools, such as Cal State Fullerton, a non-football playing member of the Big West, where most of UH’s teams other than football compete, have just announced they will begin the fall semester with online classes only.

As for UH, athletic director David Matlin said no decision has been made on a cutoff date for determining when the Rainbow Warriors might start their camp or the season. “It is premature to answer these questions at this time because so much is still unknown and out of the university’s control. UH is preparing for every contingency and will continue to work with the appropriate government agencies in responding to this unprecedented health crisis at the county, state and federal levels.”

Meanwhile, when clarity — or the season — will come is anybody’s guess.