The Arizona Wildcats are facing a massive budget deficit if there is no football this season, but delaying it to the spring isn’t as simple as it seems.
UA athletic director Dave Heeke described it as a “two-year exercise” because the 2021 season would also need to be delayed so that players have enough time to recoup and recover.
Purdue recently unveiled a plan that calls for an eight-game spring season (not including the postseason) that begins in February and runs through May. The 2021 season would then begin on Oct. 2, about a month later than usual, and only consist of 10 games.
The plan also proposes for only one padded practice per week to further limit wear and tear.
These are the kinds of things the Pac-12 will have to consider as they try to save the 2020 season, but Heeke said the league is only at a “back of the napkin” stage of planning right now.
“While we’re looking at spring and how do we pivot quickly and put a plan together for playing games, I think we’ve got to think long on this to the future because it does impact some different periods of both training, practicing and future games, future seasons next fall,” he said.
Heeke, who declined to comment on the other major conferences that are still planning to play in the fall, said the Pac-12’s decision to postpone fall sports boiled down to three factors: testing, the presence of the coronavirus in Pac-12 regions, and the “cardiac issues that have come forward,” referring to myocarditis, a heart condition that can result from a battle with COVID-19.
Heeke praised UA’s coronavirus testing capacity—“we have a gold star testing program,” he said—but noted that other schools and conferences aren’t on the same level.
Until that happens, he isn’t willing to put his student-athletes at risk.
“We need more testing that has quick, rapid results and a high specificity percentage,” he said. “We’ve got to have that, obviously. I think by waiting we believe we can get closer to that. And in that time we hope that the virus can controlled or that we’ll see some trends in the virus itself. And then also we’ll learn more about these cardiac issues or any other things that we don’t really know about at this point.”
On basketball bubbles and...a missed opportunity?
The Pac-12’s decision to postpone fall sports wasn’t a surprise. More conferences than not have joined the fray, including the Big Ten.
What was shocking is that the Pac-12 postponed EVERYTHING until January, becoming the first conference to delay its college basketball season.
Did the league move too quickly? Seems like it.
CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein is reporting that the window between Thanksgiving and Jan. 1 is being viewed as a “golden opportunity” for the sport to squeeze in games. School is not in session that time of year, making it much easier for players to be isolated from their peers.
So...might the Pac-12 reconsider its decision?
“I think we’re pretty convinced that we’re moving towards January, but I’m not a person that would not consider something,” Heeke said. “So, could something change that allows us to consider it? OK, I don’t see that, but if there is an abundance of evidence and our medical advisory group was entertaining that, we could have that conversation, but I don’t see us working on that immediately.”
Another way to isolate teams is placing them in one central location like the NBA has done this summer.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said this week that “we cannot bubble our student-athletes like pro sports can”, but NCAA president Mark Emmert disagreed, recently saying that bubbles are “perfectly viable in many sports.”
College basketball isn’t really a stranger to it, as the NCAA Tournament, conference tournaments and even some early-season events like the Maui Invitational require several teams to play in a central location.
Heeke’s view on bubbles is similar, though not as stringent, as Scott’s.
“Bubbling has become obviously the buzzword and the hot term, or can we isolate in certain periods of times and pods? I think there’s ways to do that. I think we may even have to do some of that as we go into a winter and spring season anyways,” Heeke said.
“It’s certainly different than the pros, who have a full enterprise that they can in a way dictate how they’re going to operate, so we have to be careful with that. But I think there are ways that you could do this in small isolation pods that might make some sense, but it’s not as easy as just saying we’re going to shutter, everybody goes online and just do it. I think there’s a lot of considerations on that. These are still student athletes.”