By John Kanelis
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp has put out the word: School will open this fall at all 11 system campuses with in-person classroom study and, get ready for it, there will be football.
Are you ready? For some football?
Let's not jump the gun just yet.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a phased-in approach to restarting the Texas economy, which has come to a virtual halt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The first steps will occur Friday as some businesses will reopen to a fraction of their usual customer capacity; that includes restaurants, movie theaters and malls. Good luck with that one, folks.
Now we hear that school is reopening. The Texas Tech University and the University of Texas systems also say they plan to open their classrooms this fall. They, too, also plan to kick off the football season.
So, what does that mean, say, for Texas A&M-Commerce? Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium seats about 13,500 fans. Granted, that's a good bit less than what Kyle Field in Bryan-College Station holds, but there is a concern nonetheless. Are we going to toss aside all the social distancing requirements that have helped -- in many cases -- stem the rate of infection by the killer COVID-19 virus?
And if the TAMUC Lions draw a packed house, how are we going to fit them all into the stadium? Do we sell only about one-third the number of tickets?
I am a bit dubious about how this is supposed to work so soon after the state went into virtual lockdown while the nation fights the worldwide pandemic. Gov. Abbott vowed to let the "data and the doctors" dictate his decisions regarding the reopening of business in the state. Rest assured, public education -- particularly higher public education and the revenue the universities earn from their football programs -- constitutes "business" in every meaningful sense of the word.
But the men, women and children who sit in those stands and who spend their money at these events must not become exposed -- potentially! -- to a disease that could sicken them, or worse.
You may count me as one who is leery of this decision by the A&M System high command to play football in the fall. I hope it's not too soon.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.