Washington State athletic director Pat Chun stopped short of canceling spring football drills Friday but suggested they might be delayed beyond the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“In all our coaches’ meetings, we’ve been preparing our coaches to really think about what the new normal could look like,” Chun said in a teleconference with reporters. “If that means fall sports not practicing until June or July, that’s a reality. At the end of the day, sports are secondary to what’s going on in the world right now.”
The Pullman school, complying with a Pac-12 Conference edict, already had canceled all spring sports competitions but had left open the possibility of athletic practices and other team activities after April 2. Now, it appears that threshold will be postponed indefinitely.
Hence another obstacle to the Cougars’ transition to a new football coaching tenure, after Mike Leach’s departure for Mississippi State on Jan. 9 and the school’s hiring of Nick Rolovich a few days later. Although Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense bears similarities to Leach’s Air Raid, some of its core concepts are different, and the Cougars also need to identify and break in a new quarterback.
As Chun pointed out, the three Pac-12 schools with new football coaches — WSU, Colorado and Washington — also are the three that had yet to stage a single spring practice before the coronavirus began its wholesale disruption of the sporting world last week. Washington and new coach Jimmy Lake on Thursday canceled all practices through June 5.
Reinforcing the notion that WSU is weeks away from staging football drills is the school’s intention of shifting all classes from in-person interaction to online learning when spring break ends Monday. Chun said he sent a communication Thursday to all athletes encouraging them to remain at their permanent residences, “at least for the time being” and try to adjust quickly to online classes, with which he said “a vast majority” have no experience.
“Right now, we’re in kind of a triage mode,” he said. “We’re more worried about, ‘What does Monday look like?’ We’ve been trying to inventory what student-athletes are coming back or aren’t coming back. Probably the most daunting thing in front of us is this distance learning, online learning.”
The state of Washington, the first in the nation to report coronavirus cases and deaths, has been especially intent on promoting social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Chun alluded to that fact in explaining that spring football workouts “will not be in the format of what we’re all used to, especially where we’re at today, especially in the state of Washington.
“We have to do our part to flatten the curve,” he said. “We have to practice social distancing. We’ve got to be responsible citizens. Really, all of our messaging to student-athletes is centered around being a global citizen.”
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