Fall Restart For Football Not Only Target For WVU Athletics
Discussions, potential plans ranging from A to Z and methods to overcome the hurdles barring the playing of a 2020 football season are understandably first and foremost on the minds of administrators at colleges that play the sport. As we’ve said and heard ad infinitum, football revenue is the foundation of most every collegiate athletic department, and without it sports at that level would look entirely different, and much diminished.
Still, there are other fall sports to be looked at, planned for and restarted, even if they don’t have the economic impact or attention that football demands. At WVU, that list includes cross country, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball, which play the majority of their schedules and conduct their championships during the fall and early winter.
“We’ve focused on football across every league, because there are activities they can do in the summertime compared to the soccers, the cross-countrys and the other fall sports,” WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons said. “The main focus is looking at football, but there are other groups that are looking at Olympic sports.”
Lyons is involved in that planning on both a local and a national level. At WVU, of course, he oversees the entire athletic department, but he is also the chair of the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee, which is trying to wrangle a plan together to get football back up and running on the national level.
At WVU, those sports in the fall classification as defined by the NCAA are just some of those that will have to be addressed in short order if football does restart successfully. A majority of WVU’s varsity teams see action during the fall semester, even though they are classified as winter or spring sports. Baseball, golf, rifle, swimming and diving, wrestling, tennis, volleyball and rowing have fall practice sessions and competitions. Baseball is of the practice and scrimmage-only variety, but the others have official games and matches that begin as early as August (men’s and women’s soccer), with tennis, golf, volleyball and cross country starting up in September.
It would stand to reason that those with only practice and exhibition games, such as baseball, would come at the end of any reopening planning. So too might some of the sports like swimming and diving, which participate in mostly open competitions during the early part of the schedule. However, there’s no doubt that once one ball starts rolling (or is kicked or thrown) that the work of planning out the restarts of additional sports will exponentially increase.
“As we reopen and resocialize in sport, we’ll take steps at looking to try to bring everybody back. We don’t have a full plan yet,” Lyons admitted, “but I think it’s obviously a stair step where you bring football back earlier than you bring the volleyballs and the soccers. Football is first, but the other fall sports aren’t far behind.”
One benefit for the planning and reopening of other sports will be the experience gained from football, which will likely be the most complex of the reopening tasks. With the largest number of participants, coaches and support staff, the execution of the football restart will be more complex than, say, that of soccer, which has about one-fifth the number of student-athletes and far fewer coaches and staffers. The lessons learned in planning for football should be able to be applied to other sports, and hopefully make those restarts less vexing.
Still, it’s going to be a prodigious task, and one that will have to be completed in a much shorter timeframe than that devoted to football. Of West Virginia’s 18 sports, only three (gymnastics, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field) started competition or did not have a scrimmage until after Jan. 1 of the 2019-20 season. While some don’t start until November, such as both basketballs and wrestling, getting all of those sports underway with all of the restrictions and cautions which will accompany the restart, is going to be a task which has never before been attempted on this scale.