West Virginia University Athletic Director Shane Lyons is optimistic about the prospects of college football season, despite uncertainty surrounding the sports world and its future amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea that this fall’s sports seasons will be postponed or even canceled were exacerbated over the weekend when the Big 12 Conference extended its suspension of athletic activities until May 31 — more than two full months after the original March 29 date, aligning with conferences across the country taking similar measures. But as pessimism grows in regard to a possible football season, Lyons remains optimistic.
“Based on my conversations [with medical experts], August is an area where normal life will hopefully be back all across the U.S. So that’s kind of our hope,” Lyons said.
His hopes are far from a set-in-stone ruling, and even though “normal life” will have hypothetically returned in this scenario, Lyons anticipates that the season will look different if it were to move forward on time.
“What we need to be prepared [for], as the football oversight and in the community, is making sure that when the student-athletes return, that the preseason schedule looks a little different,” he said. “They haven’t been here, potentially, in the summer. We’re planning now for them to train and condition, but what if that doesn’t happen? What does that preseason look like?…So that’s what we’ll be discussing as time goes here in the next couple weeks of what that looks like.”
That positive outlook isn’t universally shared, with several different scenarios being discussed — including the possibility of starting the season late, or even canceling it altogether. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit expressed his belief in the latter on ESPN Radio, and later clarified his comments in a tweet.
“I just think this virus is real and until there’s a vaccine I’d be shocked if there was football. That’s all,” he wrote.
As it stands, though, the plan is to begin the preseason in August and the regular season in September, like normal. Lyons says, however, that things are subject to change.
“If another month rolls around and the medical advice is being said that, hey, this is going to take longer than we thought…then I think we will continue to have those discussions,” he said. “Is it delayed? Is it moved back? Is it going to go over two semesters?”
On top of that, he is quick to remind that this issue is bigger than college football. With university campuses across the globe closed indefinitely, questions loom about the future of all higher education as well.
“If our students across the country are not returning to campuses, it’s hard for us as athletic directors and administrators to say that football is going to start,” he explained.
Despite all the uncertainty, though, Lyons is looking at the future through a positive lens.
“There [are] other people on the other side of the fence that don’t think this is going to happen, I think that’s worldwide,” he said. “There are optimists and there are pessimists. I’m being more optimistic at this point.”