CORONAVIRUS

'To be determined' not what this creature of habit wants to hear

Ogden column: But now is not the time to question sports agendas

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, talking with football coach Kirk Ferentz before a game against Rutgers, is dealing w
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, talking with football coach Kirk Ferentz before a game against Rutgers, is dealing with a lot of “to be determined” scenarios right now. Lots of options are on the table for the future of collegiate athletics. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

To be determined.

For a creature of habit like me — a person who likes looking and planning ahead, runs/walks the same routes on the same days far too often — those three words can be hard to swallow.

Monday would have been the home opener for the Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball team (see Jeff Johnson’s wonderful story about that), something we like to highlight in The Gazette and at TheGazette.com.

This week’s schedule also included a lot of high school soccer, golf, tennis and, of course, track and field. Iowa City High’s Forwald Relays were scheduled for Thursday, Linn-Mar had a coed meet planned for Saturday. Iowa and Iowa State were scheduled to meet on the softball field on Wednesday and Coe was going to be at Luther in what I’m sure would have been a key American Rivers Conference softball showdown on Tuesday.

The Drake Relays — always one of my favorite events to plan and, when lucky, attend — would have started their four-day run next Wednesday.

Alas, all of that, of course, is TBD thanks to COVID-19.

This isn’t a column about what could have been, about what we are missing, though.

To use a word Iowa athletics director Gary Barta uttered several times last week during a Zoom conference with members of the media, this is about the “unknowns.”

Practices will return, games will be played and races will be run. We don’t know, however, when and we don’t know what they will look like when they do return.

That’s a big part of the unknown.

That’s why last week I was taken aback a bit by a Twitter comment questioning why Barta, during the aforementioned conference, didn’t have a definitive budget plan for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

I get questioning the man who manages the biggest athletics budget in the state. I’ve done it and my staff has done it — more than once. On other topics.

On this topic? Projecting the future, in this TBD time, would be irresponsible. There just are too many unknowns.

I’m sure Barta — and every athletics director at every level in the state and across the country — has several projections. Here’s one if everything goes back to “normal” by the fall. Here’s one if the football season starts late, here’s another if a partial schedule is played.

Here’s one if we don’t play football at all.

“The revenue derived from football drives college athletics,” Barta said. That’s not breaking news, that’s not one of the unknowns.

If the latter budget becomes reality, the one with no football, what will that mean?

It won’t be pretty.

There will be cuts in staffs — coaching and administrative. Sports will be cut. The so-called “Olympic” sports — you know, the ones that generate little to no revenue — will be in danger. Some will be gone, some will be reduced to club status.

The entire athletics landscape at the collegiate level will have to be re-evaluated, maybe rebuilt — and it will trickle down to the high school level to some degree.

Now’s not the time to argue for a clear picture of the future. For us creatures of habit, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

But it’s all to be determined — and, right now, that’s OK.

Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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