University of Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said Wednesday he is “cautiously optimistic” that college football and other sports will be played in the fall, but emphasized that there were few concrete answers at this point and the coronavirus pandemic might mean things don’t return to “normal” for a long time.
“At the end of the day, the determination of whether or not we’re playing sports in the fall, in particular football, is gonna rest on what our state and local governments, our university system and the University of Maryland allow us to do,” Evans said in a virtual panel held by Maryland’s Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism.
He also admitted that there could be some disadvantage that some athletic programs in parts of the country where the coronavirus appears less of a threat will resume practice before others in harder-hit areas.
For example, University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld recently said Iowa’s football program intends to begin practicing June 1; the Big Ten and the other Power 5 conferences currently have a moratorium on all organized team activities through May 31. Iowa might begin practicing before Maryland and many other teams in the conference can.
“Each state, each county, each locale is at a different point in time with regard to the virus,” Evans said. “And for us to hold individuals back from being able to move forward just didn’t seem realistic because we know that we’re all not going to be opening at the same time. So there is going to be a little bit of inequity out there, but we just made the decision that we’re gonna allow - probably subsequent to June 1, or May 31 - to allow institutions to move forward in some form or fashion.”
The athletic director also said programs might be hurt financially if safety guidelines mean fans are not allowed to attend games, as ticket revenue and some advertising money would dry up.
“I think everyone needs to be prepared that what it looked like before may be very different as we move forward,” he said.
The Maryland athletic department has a “return to work” and “return to play” task force to keep the program prepared to ramp back up for when sports competition is allowed to return.
NCAA president Mark Emmert recently said that he doesn’t think sports can begin at schools that are only holding online classes in the fall 2020 semester. The California State University system, which includes Division I-FBS programs San Jose State, San Diego State and Fresno State, is reportedly likely to only offer online classes in the fall.
Emmert also said he will not mandate a nationwide start date for the football season, which some Western schools have proposed in the interest of not letting some teams get a competitive advantage of more practice time.
• Adam Zielonka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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