The Arizona Wildcats are set to open the 2020 football season in less than two months, hosting Hawaii on Aug. 29 in a “Week Zero” game.
That’s still the plan, according to athletic director Dave Heeke, but the certainty of that game—and the entire season—happening as scheduled is a different story.
“We don’t know what the next day is going to bring,” Heeke said Tuesday during an interview on WildcatRadio 1290. “Every time we think we’ve got a little bit of a beat on it, understand what’s gonna happen, it changes on us.”
Arizona is eligible to begin preseason training camp on July 31, which is around when Heeke hopes the sport’s leaders come to a consensus on a variety of topics related to the 2020 season.
“I think we’re looking at the end of July as a real key decision point,” he said. “That’s going to be a clutch time.”
Heeke’s comments came a day after the UA announced it was pausing its re-entry plan for student-athletes in the wake of the state and Pima County’s major spike in coronavirus cases. Those who had already returned, all football players to this point, will continue to be able to participate in voluntary workouts after the school got confirmation that Governor Doug Ducey’s Monday executive order closing gyms statewide for 30 days didn’t apply to the athletic facilities.
Arizona will wait until after the Fourth of July weekend before reassessing whether to bring more athletes back, Heeke said. He said since workouts right now remain of the voluntary nature there’s no rush.
As of now, each school has set up its own protocols are far as bringing football players back to campus, including how it tests for COVID-19. In order for the season to happen without any notable changes it will require a “global” agreement on that topic, Heeke said.
“Can we come to an agreement on how we’re testing in the appropriate manner, so that when we play a football game—for that matter when we play a soccer game, when we play a volleyball game—that both teams and the staff around them and those involved in the game, that they’ve all been tested, and we all feel comfortable with the status?,” he said. “Are we comfortable with those testing protocols so that we can assure that we’ve done the very best that we can? If we’re all on par, we all feel really comfortable with that, I think we can move forward.”
If a uniform testing plan isn’t reached, Heeke said, that could lead to major uncertainty.
“Are we going to feel comfortable playing someone if … we’re not comfortable with the testing that they’ve done?,” he said. “Would we allow our teams to play against those teams? We hope we don’t get to that point. We hope we can play and that’s our intention. But those are the questions we’d have to ask if we couldn’t come to some national agreement on testing.”