3 most urgent NCAA athletics issues confronting SEC and Georgia leadership
NASHVILLE — Greg Sankey stressed the fluidity of NCAA athletics’ future with regard to the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday night with good reason.
The only certainty at the close of business for league commissioners like Sankey on Thursday — just like Wednesday — was the uncertainty of the situation, itself.
More changes to SEC policies could come as early as Friday after Sankey and league administrators consult on a mid-day conference call.
As of Thursday, SEC schools’ practice schedules were at the discretion of the member institutions. The league plan was to re-assess on March 30.
“That was the conversation throughout the room today with the other athletics directors,” South Carolina AD Ray Tanner said on the Paul Finebaum Show on Thursday.
“It’s a wait-and-see situation, and we’ll evaluate it in weeks to come. It’s not an SEC decision at this point. It could be going forward, but right now it’s an individual campus decision.”
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, like Sankey, stressed the fluidity of the situation in his interview with DawgNation late Wednesday night.
“I would just say stay tuned,” McGarity said in Nashville. “And we’ll see what the landscape looks like.”
McGarity told Athens radio station 960 The Ref on Friday morning that Georgia will not hold spring practices, including football, for the next several weeks.
Sankey, himself, had allowed there still might be an SEC Baseball Tournament during his press conference at Bridgestone Arena.
“That March 30th (re-assessment) date gives us an opportunity to take a step back from a rather intense 24, 36 hours and consider the direction with the remainder of the spring as scheduled or any adjustments,” Sankey said. “Right now that March 30 date has the most importance, I think, as a milestone.”
But the NCAA’s announcement canceling spring sports championships on Thursday — College Worlds Series included — might lead the SEC to alter its policy once again.
Sankey said on ESPN radio on Thursday night that he’ll “re-engage” with league administrators on Friday. Among the topics will be the NCAA spring sports ruling and how it might affect league decisions moving forward.
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) March 12, 2020
It’s another step in the process of managing sports amid the coronavirus crisis.
“We’re learning,” Sankey said during his press conference, explaining the lack of precedent for the current state of athletics amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’re making the best decisions on the best available information.”
Here are the three things the NCAA is expected to consider and make provisions for in the very near future that the SEC will also discuss:
1. Eligibility issues
Several coaches and players have suggested the NCAA provide waivers for winter and spring sport athletes who were unable to compete in their championship tournaments or perform in their senior sports season.
The compilations are the currently assigned scholarship limitations in each sport and the costs that would be involved with expanding rosters and providing extra scholarships.
2. Recruiting structures
The NCAA works to maintain a level playing field in recruiting as well as competition. That has meant limiting the number of recruiting visits and providing specified windows for official and unofficial visits.
With the sports schedule in flux, it’s reasonable to assume an adjusted recruiting calendar with special provisions will be put in place for schools hosting visits in the best interest of the upcoming student-athletes.
3. Practice issues
The SEC’s policy of allowing each school to make its own decisions on spring practice will be challenged now that the NCAA has canceled spring sports championships and schools are canceling face-to-face classes.
The same risks of exposure to the virus that led schools to close classrooms confront coaches with team practices, particularly sports like football where athletes compete in close proximity.
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