Year of the Razorback: Dealing with COVID

Each athletics year brings its share of challenges and adversity. However, it would be hard to imagine, that, at least in recent history, there was a year when Razorback student-athletes, coaches, staff members and fans faced as many obstacles as they did in 2020-21. Not only did the University of Arkansas meet those challenges to advance in their competitive seasons, they did so in record-breaking fashion, turning in the most successful collective sports year in Razorback history.

The abrupt halt of the 2019-20 athletics year in March of 2020 due to the global pandemic cast a large shadow of uncertainty that enveloped every aspect of our lives, including the prospects of a return to competition.

On June 1, 2020, a group of Razorback student-athletes returned to a very different campus from which they had departed. In the months between the COVID shutdown and the strategically staggered return, Razorback Athletics was busy working with university and state health officials, the Southeastern Conference, the Arkansas Department of Health, the SEC Medical Task Force and operating under the guidance of the CDC to build a confidence plan to allow student-athletes, coaches and staff to safely return during the ongoing pandemic.

Masks, social distancing and COVID testing became a part of everyday life. Student-athletes, like all of us, were asked to sacrifice large gatherings and social events to help keep the hopes for a season alive. Slowly, additional student-athletes were able to return to campus to train and conduct individual and eventually team workouts. As more information became available and strict protocols across the SEC were put into place, plans for athletics seasons began to emerge.

Even as seasons began, restrictions were lifted and protocols were tweaked with the latest information, Razorback student-athletes remained focused. While other intercollegiate athletics programs around the nation were forced to cancel numerous games and even in some cases, suspend or cancel full seasons, Razorback student-athletes worked through additional challenges of contact tracing and quarantining protocols, to help ensure the limited number of positive cases within the program did not also impact others.

Things did not always go perfectly. Along the way, a few events were canceled due to COVID challenges with Razorback opponents. Most notably, the Arkansas football team was not able to compete, after earning a bid to the Texas Bowl, when its opponent was unable to play. Volleyball narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament field after the NCAA decided to reduce the field due to the pandemic. Yet the prevailing story of Razorback Athletics in 2020-21 will not be focused on the opportunities missed, but rather the opportunities fulfilled and the success that came as a result.

As Razorback Athletics faced the harsh realities of COVID-19, the diligent work of so many, led by the Razorback Sports Performance team, including athletics trainers and doctors, strength and conditioning staff, the facilities staff and university and athletics administration, helped secure the biggest victory of the year. After all, without managing and dealing with COVID effectively, the successful history of the Year of the Razorback would have never been written.

Track Record of Success

  • COVID Tests Conducted: 28,500+
  • Positivity Rate: Less than .01 percent
  • 2020-21 Razorback Events Contested: 300+ events
  • 2020-21 Razorback Events Canceled due to Arkansas COVID issues: 0