The other people who need sports

041520 Wil Art-0308.jpg

The marquee outside the home plate gate at O'Brate Stadium on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Quentin Bell was not surprised when he was told he couldn’t come to work.

He, like many of his co-workers during Oklahoma State University athletic events, anticipated being without a job while OSU halted sporting events over this extended quarantine period.

“We knew that everything was being shut down.” Bell said.

OSU employs many people like Bell who make game days run smoothly. People who operate concessions, tear things down at the conclusion of an event, and work behind the scenes would normally be in high demand right now.

Kyle Waters, OSU’s senior associate athletic director for facilities, says that his team of people would have been busy, even without football and basketball.

“Since we are done with basketball and football, the only large event that we had on the books was the NCAA Tennis Championship,” Waters said. 

The NCAA Tennis Championship, along with baseball and softball, were the main events that require a lot of people to operate.

OSU hosting the NCAA Tennis Championship would normally mean Bell would be very busy. He said that for tournaments, a workday could mean getting to work at 7 a.m. and getting off at midnight.

Instead, his job has been put on hold since the beginning of March. The lack of hours has relegated Bell to working out, getting to spend time with his brother, and watching ESPN’s “The Last Dance.”

Bell said that he and his coworkers are, “Tired of being at home” and that, “We all just want to go back to work.”

Though the sports shutdown has taken its toll at OSU, the silver lining is that football and basketball, the two biggest sports economically for the university, escaped relatively unscathed for their most recent seasons. But as talks swirl of a potentially altered 2020 football season, many more people around OSU could be affected by the sports stoppage in the future, most notably volunteers.

“For the football games…most of the groups of concessions are volunteers,” Waters said. “Whether they are the Boy Scouts or a little league team, they are working gamedays in the concession stand to earn money to go travel to a tournament or to pay for a party.”

OSU football games alone require approximately 200-300 people to work concessions. Combined with the volunteers that assist in other ways, like parking lots and ticket taking, and there simply may not be fundraising opportunities available for groups without the return of OSU sports.

“That would be the significant hit that you would see people take,” Waters said.

The economic impact that sports has on OSU has been well chronicled. The rights to televise games and ticket sales for football games alone benefits the entire university in a significant way.

And that extends to the jobs that OSU sporting events create for people like Bell, as well as fundraising opportunities for groups.

“If we don’t play football games, you would see three to four hundred folks not have that opportunity to earn extra money,” Waters said.

OSU currently plans to resume in-person classes for the 2020 Fall semester. Though the future is uncertain, the university remains committed to protecting its students and employees while also returning to normalcy.