FAYETTEVILLE — Instead of official visits, Junior Days and evaluation period mixed in with spring football practice, coaches, student-athletes and recruits are urged to stay at home.
The words social distancing have replaced official visits, quarantined is now the word used more than commitment. How long it remains this way with COVID-19? Who knows, but apparently the experts are saying it’s gonna last for awhile.
No spring practice has been the hot topic, but recruiting is also involved in this scenario. Last year Arkansas had seven official visitors in April and another three in May then another trio in June. They may not have any during that period this year. Chances are growing slimmer each day of any visits happening certainly before June and maybe not even then.
Also in June Arkansas had seven football camps. Sam Pittman said Friday the camps are scheduled for this year, but may not happen.
“They are up in air,” Pittman said. “We obviously have dates for them, but who knows. Who knows what’s going on. We are in contact with the high school kids when this all breaks up come see us you know. They understand it too.”
Normally the assistant coaches are on the road as well during the spring evaluation period going to schools and watching prospects practice. This year, many high schools are shut down and doing on-line classes. The students may or may not go back to schools in mid-April.
The coaches at Arkansas are on a much earned spring break this week. They have previously been in the office, watching film and offering prospects.
When students are allowed to return to campuses across the nation it will be interesting to see how recruiting is handled by the NCAA. Assuming there’s no visits until say July that means the coaches will have to likely bring more prospects in during the season than they prefer.
Last year, Arkansas hosted eight official visitors during the season. There’s advantages and disadvantages to that. The biggest advantage is obviously the prospect gets to see the atmosphere on day of game. The disadvantage is the coaches don’t get to spend as much quality time with the prospects due to preparing for a game.
If this happens expect coaches to try and schedule as many visitors in December as possible prior to the NCAA’s early signing period. The Hogs hosted five prospects the Dec. 13 weekend last year, but would be able to host both weekends in December this year leading up to the early signing period since Pittman is in place as head coach.
COVID-19 has changed a lot of things in the world so sports is just a small thing compared to all the deaths in so many countries. But trying to figure out how sports and recruiting will fit back in once all this is cleared is part of the job of reporters, coaches and athletes.
Arkansas did have two Junior Days, Feb. 1 and March 7, prior to everything shutting down. They also were able to host a talented quarterback on March 9 for another unofficial visit.
“I do think it was very valuable to get high school kids on campus before this started,” Pittman said. “We offered several in the two Junior Days. I thought our coaches did a really good job of getting talented kids on caps. I thought they went really well. I don’t know obviously what’s gonna go on, but it’s gonna be different.”
There’s no answers right now to all the questions surrounding this topic. It’s strange to see the entire world basically taking a wait-and-see approach to so many things. In this microwave world where everything is now and instant, COVID-19 has forced everyone to wait and wonder. But as Pittman said, the one thing we all know is, “It’s gonna be different.”
Everyone stay safe and listen to what the leaders in the USA are telling us.