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August is football time in Oklahoma, but what if there are no fans in The Palace on the Prairie?

The economic impact will be catastrophic if Norman has no OU football season. And you don’t have to care about X’s and O’s to feel the ramifications.

The impact of six weekends without football mainly affects Norman businesses with the loss of direct sales. An OU home football game brings in $3,582,898 to our city in direct business sales, according to a study conducted by Visit Norman.

More than $2 million of the total is attributed to retail and food and beverage sales. Also, 2,796 jobs are directly supported, as well as $176,235 worth of local taxes from six Saturdays a year.

No one budgeted for this pandemic. If Norman doesn’t have a football season, Campus Corner might as well fold up for a few months.

There is a secondary impact of no football revenue. The arts, which receives 25 percent of the hotel/motel tax, would be less able to provide grants for artists, cultural events and festivals. VisitNorman receives 50 percent of the tax, and parks and recreation gets the other 25 percent.

You must have class to have football. OU set the stage in April, announcing plans to return in-person classes this fall. Athletics also is transitioning to digital ticketing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Already, some Big 12 players are testing positive. The Big 12 allows schools to begin workouts June 15. In mid-June, OU players and staff will begin self-quarantining as a preventative measure to be prepared for a July 1 start of voluntary workouts.

To protect lives and livelihoods, the city of Norman and OU must continue to have a strong relationship.

“I love football as much as the next Normanite, and I also think it’s important for morale in the community,” Norman Mayor Breea Clark told The Transcript. “So aside from the profit part we need it to feel a little bit normal. But we’re not gonna do it at the expense of student-athletes or people who enjoy the games, or residents for that matter. It’s a fine balancing act, but I think we’ve been proactive enough on the front end that we’re cautiously optimistic.”

South of the Red River, Texas officials are modeling a scenario to fit all season-ticket holders into Longhorn home games as long as their governor allows at least 50 percent capacity this fall. And Oklahoma State reportedly will have a stadium full of fans if local health officials allow it.

We don’t yet know a capacity limit for Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, but one thing is for certain. OU President Joe Harroz and Mayor Clark must collaborate moving toward fall kickoff.

More questions remain: Will OU implement a priority points system or require face masks to accommodate social distancing? Will fans have to sign a legal waiver not to take legal action if they get sick? And we don’t know when a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved or the magnitude of a potential second coronavirus wave.

We’ll learn much this summer as things evolve. OU is scheduled to kick off the 2020 football season Sept. 5 in Norman.

Without Sooner football this fall, the impact is far-reaching beyond the world of sports. Norman’s economic model is built around the university.

The Norman Transcript Editorial Board includes Publisher Mark Millsap, Editor Rob Collins and guest members Brandi Coyner, Keith Gaddie, Bianca Gordon, Kathy Haney, Marc Nuttle, Michael Ridgeway and Nick Wu. For comments or questions, please email editor@normantranscript.com.

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