Former Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson believes the Big Ten and Pac-12 made the right decision to postpone the fall sports season and expects other conferences to soon make the same decision.
On Aug. 11, the Big Ten, the conference in which Maryland competes, announced its decision to postpone its fall because of health and safety concerns tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 175,000 Americans have died from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, the most among any country in the world. Myocarditis, a heart condition that has been linked to COVID-19, reportedly played a part in the conference’s decision to shut down fall sports.
Anderson, the athletic director at Maryland from 2010-2018, referenced the rapid spread of the virus and some football players — linemen in particular — being at a higher risk for poor outcomes after infections.
“I know there were a lot of linemen when I was at Maryland that had sleep apnea and some breathing disorders,” Anderson said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 13. “I think it’s difficult to put them in that arena and have everything at stake because there’s a lot of things we know and there’s a lot of things we don’t know. I think the right decision was made by the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”
Still, other conferences like the ACC, AAC, Big 12 and SEC are currently pressing on with fall competition. Navy, which competes in the AAC, is scheduled to kick off its football season against BYU Sept. 7. The SEC, considered the top football conference annually, recently announced its new 10-game, conference-only schedule starting Sept. 26.
Team sports leagues that have kept the coronavirus at bay since restarting have operated within a bubble format, such as the NBA, NHL, NWSL and WNBA. MLB has operated outside of a bubble, and outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals have interrupted both teams’ schedules for extended periods of time.
It remains to be seen how conferences will be able to navigate the current environment, particularly with respect to football, but Anderson thinks the conferences currently planning to play sports in the fall will eventually come to the same conclusion the Big Ten and Pac-12 did.
“I think there’s a moral obligation here,” Anderson said. “This is different than having a young man go out and hurt his knee or whatever. Those are some of the outcomes of what happens when you play the game. But this is far different, and knowing that it could be prevented and that we know what we know and we don’t know what we don’t know. I think it’s just too risky.”
Anderson addressed several other topics:
On not being convinced spring football is a real option:
The reason we’re not playing now is because of student-athlete welfare. So now if you go into the spring, how many games do you have? But then you’re butting up against the following season. One of the things we’re always worried about is the wear and tear of what football creates with these young people, so how far do you go in the spring, and when do you stop, and then you’re starting all over again for the summer and then going into the fall.
On the financial fallout for athletic departments with no football season:
Every once in awhile, the stock market corrects itself, and I think that intercollegiate athletics is looking at making a major correction and the kind of money that has been spent, and the kind of money that’s needed to run these organizations I think will be changed by all of this. We’re seeing it already. I started my athletic career at Stanford University. When I left Stanford University — and this was probably the mid-90s, if not earlier — we had a $490 million endowment just for athletics. So you can imagine how that must have grown from that time to now. For them to cut 11 sports — and Stanford’s pride was on the number of teams they sponsored and the number of athletes they gave the opportunity to come to Stanford — if they’re in that position, just think what most other people are in.
On the decisions schools will have to make due to the lack of football revenue in 2020:
I believe there are some colleges and universities that aren’t going to make it, let alone their athletic departments. Then I can see that there’s going to be some athletic departments that some presidents and some regents are going to have to look at and say, ‘Can we afford to do this anymore? And can we afford to do it the right way?’ And even most of the Power Five schools, I think there’s going to be some major adjustments. … I was talking to one of my colleagues [Aug. 12] and he told me that he’s already had to furlough and lay off some people. And he said that’s just the tip of the iceberg and it’s going to devastate his department but it’s the only way they’re going to be able to survive is that they’re going to have to eliminate jobs.
To hear more from Anderson, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics