College Athletics Still Dealing With Many Unknowns, Says WVU A.D. Shane Lyons
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University director of athletics Shane Lyons is preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.
The COVID-19 virus has shut done many aspects of life, including all college athletics.
No one is positive when things will return to normal. There is even concern the effects of the virus will carry into the fall, and thus put football season in jeopardy.
Lyons certainly hopes that won’t be the case.
“Needless say there have been a lot of meetings and a lot of discussions,” noted the Mountaineers’ A.D. “I’ve leaned heavily on the medical staff here in Morgantown. Dr. Clay Marsh (who is WVU’s vice president and executive dean for health sciences) has been a terrific resource for me.
“We’re still in the beginning stages of the pandemic, from what I understand, with the peak sometime later this month or early May. After that peak, hopefully we can start getting back to normal life as we had it before.
“There are a lot of things that have to be worked through, but I do believe, in my personal opinion, that it is premature to start talking about moving football,” added Lyons. “Let’s go the next two or three weeks and see what happens. But the information I’m receiving is that we’ll be ready to play football come August. That’s what I’m focused on, that we’ll play football in August. If May 1 rolls around and that date doesn’t look possible, we’ll make adjustments then.”
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West Virginia’s director of athletics has participated in many conference calls in the last few weeks to deal with the rapidly changing world.
Wednesday morning he held a 45-minute Zoom video conference with West Virginia’s press corps to discuss topics and answer questions.
“I guess this is our new way of communication with pandemic we are facing,” said Lyons through Zoom while connected with more than 30 media members. “The last three weeks has been crazy for all of us.
“In athletics we want to go into things prepared, and I don’t think any of us were prepared for this. We don’t have all the answers, and we’re working our way through this.
“Earlier this week you saw that the A5 conferences came out with a pandemic policy that the conference commissioners had worked through and involved us as athletic directors. It allowed us to come up with a structure for our student-athletes. Some of those student-athletes are here on campus and others are at home, and this policy provides a guide for what can and cannot be done and how long that can last.
“For us in the Big 12, we extended that date to May 31 with the opportunity to shift that if it needs shifted. At the same time, we created guidelines for what coaches can do. We ultimately came out with virtual meetings, film sessions and other things that can happen. Physical activity by video conferencing is not going to be permitted, but things that address the academics, mental health and physical well being of our student-athletes is something can continue.”
West Virginia’s A.D. also answered questions on various issues, mostly in regards to the COVID-19 situation but about other topics as well.
• The NCAA announced earlier this week that Division I schools could extend the eligibility clock for all spring sport student-athletes.
In conjunction, the maximum scholarship count per spring sport will be increased for one year to reflect those seniors who decide to return.
“Ultimately I think the right decision was made by the (Division I) Council to grant that extra year of competition back to the seniors,” stated Lyons. “Some will take advantage of that, and some will not take advantage of that. That’s still left to be seen.”
In terms of how the added scholarship count will work, “I’ll use baseball as an example,” explained Lyons. “Baseball has a total of 11.7 scholarships. If you had two baseball seniors in an equivalency sport getting a half a scholarship each, that means the next year you would be at 12.7 (maximum scholarships).”
Lyons estimated that if all seniors in spring sports returned for another year, the cost to WVU would be in the neighborhood in the neighborhood of $450,00 to $500,000.
• The contract for the basketball series between West Virginia and Pitt comes to an end after the 2020-21 season, but Lyons said he has had discussions with his Panther counterpart Heather Lyke about extending that contract, and both sides want to continue the rivalry.
• Before the pandemic, there were a number of construction and renovation projects underway or in the planning stages for Mountaineer athletic facilities. Some of those are still continuing, but others are now on hold.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about what things are going to look like moving forward,” said Lyons. “March-Westin (which is the main contractor for the Puskar Center renovations) is still continuing to work. We hope that there is no delay in material.
“There are other projects we’re currently reviewing, but the Puskar Center, the video boards and the Coliseum seating, we’re continuing to move forward with them.”
• Though issues dealing with COVID-19 have taken center stage, college athletic officials still are dealing with other national topics, such as Name, Image & Likeness and the proposal for a one-time transfer waiver.
“Obviously they haven’t had as much discussion the last couple of weeks as they were before, but it’s my understanding that the Name, Image & Likeness working groups are continuing to work, and there is an expectation that there will be a report at the end of (April) that will be sent back to the Council and Board of Directors,” said Lyons. “The working group for transfer waivers is also continuing their work. I do think that based on recommendations that don’t really have anything to do with the pandemic, that this is not something the Council will act upon in April from my understanding.
“Those meetings will be virtual meetings, just like the conference meetings next month.”
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“This is obviously a unique time we are experiencing, not only in athletics but in our country,” concluded Lyons. “We’re going to continue to do our part. The quarantine to make sure we don’t have the spread is very important, and at the same time, we need to continue working for our student-athletes and our fan bases moving forward to insure their health and safety.
“Thanks you for being here, and as I always close, Let’s Go Mountaineers.”