HUNTINGTON — Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick hasn’t had many quiet days over the last four months, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on college athletics.
While the coronavirus ended the 2019-20 sports year early, Friday’s choice by the NCAA Board of Governors to postpone a decision in regards to fall sports championships keeps hope alive that the 2020-21 fall sports season may possibly commence.
On a rare quiet Saturday, Hamrick said he was pleased that the NCAA Board of Governors gave such a definitive ruling a bit more time to gather all available information.
“At this point, I think it was a good decision,” Hamrick said. “With that said, the next couple of weeks are critical. The bottom line is it gives everybody more time to see what happens in the next two to three weeks and allows time to get a plan together to play.”
The next time the NCAA Board of Governors meets is Aug. 4, which is when discussions on the NCAA-sponsored fall sports championships will commence. Those championships include soccer, women’s volleyball and FCS football.
Although FCS football is part of the NCAA-sponsored championship events, FBS football is not. The FBS football championships are run by the College Football Playoff and the bowl system.
While a ruling by the NCAA Board of Governors would not directly impact FBS football, there would certainly be pressures associated with such a ruling, which is why several NCAA subcommittees wrote the Board of Governors asking to withhold a decision until August.
The critical component of canceling the FBS season lies in the financial ramifications for college athletics as a whole, which throws the pandemic into what is likely to become a difficult scenario regarding health vs. wealth for college athletics.
For now, all scenarios are in play — and that includes one where college football is played, but non-revenue fall sports are not.
Hamrick said he didn’t have a feel for what direction the NCAA is leaning in that regard.
“That’s a really good question,” Hamrick said. “There’s definitely different scenarios out there and it won’t be long. That decision will be made soon. The clock is ticking and people are putting plans together. My hope is that, in the next two to three weeks, the virus flattens out and starts decreasing.”
Friday’s decision may not have cleared up the future of the fall sports season, but it did offer clarity for what it means in the immediate future for Marshall’s athletic schedule.
Marshall football, which is scheduled to play at East Carolina on Aug. 29, is eligible to start preseason football practice on Friday (July 31). Per NCAA rules, teams are permitted to start preseason practice 29 days prior to the start of their first contest.
Hamrick confirmed that Marshall’s football practice will begin on Friday.
“Until someone tells me we’re not playing football, we’re preparing to play as we’re going to East Carolina on Aug. 29,” Hamrick said. “You have to do that. As we speak at 2:38 p.m. (Saturday), we’re practicing football next Friday.”
That model is not just for football, but all fall team sports that are expected to begin practice in the coming weeks.
Hamrick also confirmed that the men’s and women’s basketball teams are back on campus and going through protocols before starting their voluntary workout period this week, as granted by the NCAA.
The men’s and women’s basketball team is undergoing the same protocols as the football players did before they returned for voluntary workouts. It includes a seven-day quarantine upon arrival to campus, testing after that seven-day period and a quarantine period until test results return.
If players test negative, they are allowed to proceed with voluntary workouts. A positive test will trigger protocols set forth by Marshall’s health and safety officials in regards to isolation and further testing before returning to workouts.
In addition to men’s and women’s basketball’s voluntary workouts, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer are also expected back in the near future to begin preparation for their 2020 seasons.
Hamrick said that, like football, until the NCAA rules on its fall sports championships, the school’s athletic programs are preparing as if there will be an uninterrupted 2020 season.
“You have to do that,” Hamrick said. “There’s no other way to go about it. When decision are made, we’ll adjust accordingly.”