Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday that Texas is working to have the college football season start on time, with at least some fans in attendance, as the state continues to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
That news was welcome to Kilgore College head football coach Willie Gooden, who shouted out the governor’s ambition by putting the story on Facebook over the weekend.
“Let’s go!!,” Gooden wrote, surrounding the two-word comment with Emoji footballs.
Abbott, speaking during a TV interview, said there are still a few factors that remain to be seen, such as stadium capacity, the availability of medical treatment for the virus and the overall status of the outbreak in Texas. Abbott said he expects to know more about those issues around mid-July.
Abbott noted that the athletics director for the University of Texas at Austin needs a decision by early August, and the state thinks it will be able to satisfy that timeline. The first UT game is scheduled for Sept. 5 in Austin against the University of South Florida.
“But if you want a prediction, my prediction is yes, we are gonna have college football beginning as scheduled ... with at least some level of fans in stands,” Abbott said in the interview with KXAN-TV in Austin.
Abbott has already allowed certain professional sports events to resume in Texas starting May 31, though spectators are not permitted.
Like all other institutions of learning in Texas, Kilgore College went on a cautionary break for the coronavirus in March and never resumed in-person classes. KC has still not announced plans to return to in-person classes this fall, technically.
But Gooden can have hope.
The Rangers, who have won 18 games the last two seasons (including eight a year ago in his first season as head coach), are slated to start the season in a non-conference home game against archrival Tyler Junior College on Saturday, Aug. 22.
KC is scheduled to host Blinn on Aug. 29, in what would be the Southwest Junior College Football Conference opener for both, and then scheduled to make the trek to Miami, Okla., for a game against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO) on Sept. 5.
The rest of the schedule has KC hosting New Mexico Military Institute Sept. 12, at Navarro in Corsicana on Sept. 19, a home game against Cisco (also the KC Hall of Fame Game) on Sept. 26, homecoming against Community Christian College (La.) Oct. 3, at Trinity Valley in Athens on Oct. 17, and at Tyler on Oct. 24, to close out the regular season.
This is, of course, all tentative, pending decisions by KC and the other colleges.
In April, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp told all 11 university presidents in the system that the school will be ready to play fall sports. That announcement was quickly echoed by Texas Tech University officials.
Meanwhile, UT-Austin has announced a reopening process that gradually resumes on-campus operations. The school’s athletics department recently allowed a group of football coaches and support staff to return to offices at the Darrell K. Royal Stadium. A safety manual released by the school notes that certain precautions will be taken; staff will be screened online before coming to work and be subject to temperature checks before entering the stadium each day.
Patrick Svitek writes for the Texas Tribune. News Herald sports editor Mitch Lucas contributed to this story.