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Howe: Craving Answers During Pandemic Creating Mixed Messages

May 14, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – As a media member, I welcome forthcoming interviews. They make my job easier. Stories are more interesting.

But for all our sanity, can some of the powers that be in college sports simply say “I don’t know” when asked when the games will return? Please. This includes but is not limited to university presidents, athletic directors and coaches.

It’s creating confusion. You guys are all over the place. And you know what? None of you know what’s going to happen. And even when you present that caveat with your comments, it still mixes up people who are craving answers and who don’t read the whole story, just the headline.

It’s not an unreasonable request. And it will make the time between now and when the competition returns go a whole lot smoother.

COVID-19 is a novel virus. Meaning it’s new. We’re still learning about it as we go.

Predicting what will happen in a few weeks or months is a fool’s errand. And I don’t want to call people names, but sharing how you think things will go down just creates problems and could potential make you look like a nitwit.

A few week’s ago, Iowa president Bruce Harreld boldly told the board of regents he expected members of the Hawkeye football program to be back together on June 1. He made national news; and more national news; and some more.

“June 1 is the date we’re going to get back to practice and here we go,” Harreld told the regents.

Harreld later issued a statement to clarify his comments to the board after what he said caused a firestorm. Perhaps leading a return to the field in such uncertain times wasn’t such a good idea.

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Maybe Harreld just was sharing what he hoped would happen. All of us who love college football have been wishing for a season that starts as close to on time as possible.

Decision makers must be more cautious, however. We’re all champing at the bit for good news. And if we think we hear some, it travels fast.

For example, my mother-in-law, who lives in Missouri and couldn’t tell you who coaches Iowa, texted me the day of Harreld’s declaration. She was surprised to hear Hawkeye football would be back June 1.

We continue seeing mixed messages from folks in charge.

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We learned Tuesday that the California State University system, which includes Cal, USC and UCLA of the PAC-12 was planning on eliminating most in-person campus learning in the fall. That came after we heard a few days before from PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott saying that he expected the college football season to start on time. Then we had NCAA president Mark Emmert saying there won’t be college sports without students on campus.

Confusing, isn’t it?

It’s not limited to college sports. Here the president of the New York Yankees believes there will fans in the stands for his games this summer. And then we have California governor Gavin Newsom saying he didn’t expect fans in the stands if sports returned this year.

Again, I get it. People in charge are used to being in charge of making decisions. They tell other folks how it’s going to be. Only, they’re not in charge right now. The coronavirus is in charge. It will decide. It will take time. It’s unpredictable.

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Iowa athletics director Gary Barta is doing well in navigating the pandemic. He shares what he knows, makes you aware of when it’s his opinion and strongly states that it’s too early to know what’s going to happen.

Barta talks about he and the other Big Ten leaders meeting regularly. They’re creating models for different scenarios based on how our situation unfolds with the virus. They’re watching the data and listening to the experts. That’s the smart play.

I know it helps the branding of leagues to be in the news. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of the fans’ faces of when a sport is coming back keeps them engaged. But if you don’t have answers, don’t throw crap at the wall and see what sticks.

And is there really a need to make decisions on reopening campuses for class at the end of August now? Maybe it’s a logistical act I don’t understand. It would seem to be that we could adjust, however, and just see where we’re at with the virus closer to the fall. Be flexible.

It’s hard being patient. We’re all learning that during this quarantine. But we have to be. That’s the move.

It’s out of our hands, which you should be washing.

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