MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons decided to take the approach of optimism about the future of the 2020 college football season, but at the same time, realizes it is far too early to make a prediction on whether it will start on time or even happen at all.
Lyons met with the media via Zoom on Wednesday morning.
“This is my personal opinion, but I think it’s a little premature to talk about moving football from the fall to the winter,” he said. “Let’s get through the next two or three weeks and focus on what information I’m receiving on if we’ll be ready to play football in August, and that’s what I’m going to focus on. If May 1 rolls around and they’re saying that date doesn’t look possible, then we’ll start making adjustments more then.”
Last Sunday, the Big 12 extended the suspension of all athletic activities until May 31. That date is a magic number for fall sports because offseason programs begin at the beginning of June, so if the time comes and the effects of COVID-19 have not subsided, there could be major ramifications on the college football calendar.
Discussions between the NCAA, conferences and individual school’s athletic directors will have to take place, so it’s hard for Lyons to speculate. Medical experts Lyons is listening to claim the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States could be toward the end of April or beginning of May. If those projections remain accurate — which could obviously change — Lyons hopes that means the athletic calendar can get back on track, but knows it will be a challenge.
“It’s not going to be coming back full-steam,” he said. “We’ll lean on strength and conditioning staffs to make sure we have a plan to move forward. Same thing if we don’t have summer, what does that look like? Football is going to lead the way with this, but you have other sports in there that start in August. It’s not going to be jumping in like you normally would. It’s going to be a lot of different testing for the physical and well-being of our student-athletes standpoint and working on that from a different structure than we’re normally used to.”
Ideas have been floated around to play the season during the later summer months before another possible COVID-19 spike in the colder months, and others suggested playing a season that follows closely to what the XFL tried to do this year, February-April.
Lyons, on the other hand, doesn’t want to discuss hypotheticals with the current situation.
“All this that you hear in the national media and people talking about there’s not going to be football season, I think it’s foolish to say that right now,” he said. “What I’m being told from the medical experts, there’s a great possibility that we’re playing football. That’s what I’m going to focus on. If information comes in the next 15-30 days that’s different, that’s when we’ll start focusing on something else.”
The possibility of playing without fans and playing a shortened season is also on the table.
“We’ll continue to get as much education as we can from medical experts to say what is a viable option for our teams. They may say you can have a team out there, but you don’t want 60,000 people showing up to football stadiums. That’s something we’ll have to work through.
“As athletic directors, how do we salvage the football season as we get through this?” Lyons said. “We’ll have to be very flexible in our approach. It’s hard in this pandemic. You can’t just say this thing goes away on July 1 and life will go back to normal. This is going to be with us for months and months to come. So what does that look like and what’s the advice of our medical experts, our government, of our states, of our campuses? There’s a lot of discussion that has to be had over the coming weeks.”