It has now been over two weeks since the NCAA canceled the remainder of the 2019-20 athletic season due to the public health threat of the novel coronavirus-caused, COVID-19 pandemic. Even though that amount of time has passed, there remain several questions about how college sports are going to continue operate going forward.
This is the latest article in a continuing Pittsburgh Sports Now series on those questions and the difficult answers for them, as the world of college athletics moves through unprecedented territory during the ongoing pandemic.
No one knows how or if the 2020 college football season will be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said on Thursday that when it comes to games being played this fall, she expects them to be played in front of fans or not at all.
“If we’re playing the game, I think we’ll be playing in front of fans,” Lyke said in a videoconference with the local media on Thursday. “If there’s a concern about human contact, we wouldn’t be playing the game. The social distancing, if those orders are still in place in the fall, we won’t be having games as we know them now. So I don’t anticipate playing games without fans.”
Not only would the player safety concerns involved make the logistics of such a decision difficult, Lyke doesn’t think it would be prudent for college sports to proceed in such a fashion.
“When you think about coaches and student athletes playing a game with no one there, there’s definitely something missing,” Lyke said. “We value that atmosphere, the memories that we’re able to create and the experiences we’re able to create for everyone that comes to the game. We’d like to have it all back to where we should be.”
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be changes. For one, spring practices, of which Pitt got in just three of 15 scheduled sessions, will likely be lost for the year.
Lyke suggested that it’s possible that the season could be modified, but said that it’s too soon to speculate on what that might look like.
“Just conference games is a possibility if we would get to that point,” she said. “I really think it’s so hard to predict and so hard to tell at this point in time.”
Pitt is currently scheduled to start the 2020 season at Heinz Field against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, Sept. 5. Training camp has traditionally started around the first week of August.