COVID-19 Threat To Close WVU, Athletics In Question
West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee announced the imminent closure of the State’s flagship institution on Tuesday night, and school athletics officials said that the effects on programs in the midst of competition seasons are still to be determined.
Classes at WVU for the remainder of this week, ending on Friday, March 13, will take place as scheduled, but the school will then close for spring break (March 14-22). After that, WVU will suspend in-person classes the week of March 23-27. Beginning Monday, March 30, class instruction will be delivered remotely via online or other alternative learning options.
While athletic events are not the major area of concern in this decision, there is, without question, a lot to take in and consider in that arena. West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons told BlueGoldNews.com that he is already gathering information from his coaches and administration, and will conduct more meetings and talks on Wednesday morning in Kansas City.
“We aren’t ready to make a decision yet, but we will be talking with other schools here, and look at what other schools and conferences are doing across the country,” Lyons said. “We will gather as much information as we can before making a decision. We hope to have more on Wednesday.”
At potential stake are both regular season and postseason competitions. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are in Kansas City for their respective championships, and WVU has wrestler Noah Adams slated to attend the NCAAs next week. Baseball season is underway, with a home game scheduled for Wednesday, and spring football practice, which began this week, has two more days scheduled before halting for spring break week. A potential hosting of a women’s NIT game or games is also in the crosshairs.
Baseball SID Joe Mitchin said he had not been informed of any potential changes to the baseball schedule as of yet, but that will clearly be part of Lyons’ difficult decision-making process.
“We have a call tomorrow to discuss that further,” WVU football sports information director Mike Montoro said of the potential impact on spring football. “As of right now we will proceed as expected for the remainder of the week.”
West Virginia’s rifle team is also scheduled to travel to Lexington, Kentucky, for the NCAA Championships, which take place this Friday and Saturday.
A Q & A posted on WVU’s coronavirus web site (https://coronavirus.wvu.edu/) indicated that this week’s athletics competitions would be played.
Q. Is WVU planning to cancel any events, either athletic or otherwise? And what about gatherings on campus, including special events etc.?
A. Events through the end of this week (March 15) will continue as planned.
Decisions made at the conference level could, however, overrule that, as could decisions made as a result of the meetings, discussions and information gathered Wednesday morning and beyond.
While WVU works to lay out its plans for the coming weeks, it is faced with a wide array of options that have been implemented by schools and leagues, not to mention a number of mxed messages. The Ivy League entirely cancelled its postseason hoops tournaments, while the MAC and Big West will play their conference hoops tournaments without fans. The Big 12 implemented the odd measure of keeping media some 10-12 feet away from players on the court and banning locker room interviews, but has not announced any measures for its games.
On an individual basis, USC and UCLA have both banned fans from home events, while a number of other schools have also suspended classes.
The NCAA has a whole has taken something of a hands off approach, leaving the decision of restrictions and cancellations to leagues and teams.
Also still to be sorted out is the issue of travel. Gee’s announcement contained a reference to a web site with more information, and there, in bold letters, a statement cancelling all domestic and international travel, “unless approved” through March 30 is displayed. That, of course would affect every West Virginia athletic program still in session.
For now, at least through Friday, it appears as if athletics will continue as scheduled. The baseball home game on Wednesday is still on. West Virginia’s men’s basketball team will practice Wednesday morning at both the Sprint Center and another site, as is its norm in Kansas City. The women’s team is set to practice on Wednesday and have a shootaround on Thursday at the Municipal Auditorium before its games on Friday.