NASCAR got its season back on track Sunday when the Cup Series raced at Darlington, South Carolina, and essentially became the first sports organization to resume since the coronavirus pandemic began nearly two months ago.

There was some debate between the Pro Bull Riding Association and the Ultimate Fighting Championship — both had events before NASCAR — but I am not getting into that one.

I have been doing a lot of reading about the logistics behind starting professional sports again because for some reason I am intrigued with how they can go from a full staff of hundreds to half of that and be able to do it mainly away from the site.

For example, announcers Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon called the race from the Fox Sports studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, the producer was in Charlotte, the director was at the track in Darlington and their graphics and replays for the event came out of a studio in Los Angeles. Crazy right? It amazed me watching the race on Sunday how well a live televised sporting event can be done when people are spread out all over the country working on the same project.

I mentioned a while back that the sports world would be looking at NASCAR for several reasons when they started. The first being how they handled the health and safety of those in attendance for the races. I don’t think in the entirety of the race on Sunday I saw anyone without a mask or doing anything that could be construed as not following rules. I could be wrong, but from what I saw they did a good job of following all of the protocols NASCAR set in place.

It was different that’s for sure. A member of the camera crew held a microphone with an extender on it so they weren’t too close, and Regan Smith stood back interviewing the driver out of camera view so you had a driver with a mask on answering questions from someone standing out of camera shot. It will definitely take some getting used to, but I am not complaining, I was just glad to have live sports on television again.

Colleges beginning to cut sports due to financial situations

While it may not be making headlines everywhere, a trend is beginning to start amongst colleges across the country beginning to slash sports as a cost-saving measure. It seems that every day I am reading about another college eliminating a sports program to help save money due to the losses schools have sustained in recent months.

Here are the schools that have made the biggest news as cutting programs. While I am sure there are more these are the ones that I have read about lately.

Akron University cut its men’s golf, men’s cross country and women’s tennis teams; Old Dominion University cut its wrestling team; Cincinnati eliminated its men’s soccer program; Bowling Green sliced its baseball team; Florida International University cut its men’s indoor track and field team; and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay got rid of its men’s and women’s teams.

It was also reported in Monday’s News & Observer that East Carolina University would be recommended to eliminate at least one sport in a “Review of Athletics Fiscal Sustainability” report.

The Mid-American Conference announced that it was eliminating conference tournaments for eight of 17 sports as another cost-cutting measure. Instead of putting on a postseason conference tournament, the regular season champion would go on to the national tournaments in the sports that had conference tournaments eliminated.

All of the colleges are facing the same situations. Without sports bringing in money, there is a lot of uncertainty about the financial situations of many of these schools. Even some of the bigger universities in the country have had top coaches and administrators take pay cuts in an effort to save money.

The University of Akron explained its decision on the school website’s FAQ page: “The action is being taken as part of the University’s overall budget restructuring efforts due to the financial realities the University is facing.

“The University asked Athletics to develop a plan to significantly reduce the University’s financial support to the Athletics department and that recommendation does so by approximately 23 percent ($4.4 million) for fiscal year 2021 and beyond.”

Unfortunately this is going to become a common thing in the coming days, weeks and months as colleges continue to struggle financially not only from sports being canceled, but because there are no students on campus and have not been for a while, and may not return even in the fall at some institutions.

Another thing I didn’t even mention was the entire staffs that lost their jobs and the student athletes who were recruited to play sports for these schools only to be told that the entire program is immediately gone. No warning was given to these individuals and they were not even consulted on the matter. One day it was there and the next it is completely gone forever. That is brutal and heartbreaking.

Congratulations class of 2020

I want to wrap up this column by sending my congratulations to all of Halifax County High School’s 2020 graduates! It is unfortunate that your senior year ended the way that it did, but that doesn’t take away from all of your hard work and accomplishments throughout your school career.

Think about it this way, you will have a story that you can tell for years and years about the unique ways that you celebrated your senior year. From virtual proms, to the drive-thru graduation, you have a story to tell your kids and grandkids that no one else other than your senior classmates can tell.

Good luck to all of you as you head out into the world, whether it is to college, military or into the workforce!

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV