On Thursday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown spelled out a plan for reopening Oregon’s businesses and lifting the stay-home order on a conditional basis.
While the announcement provides positive news for those hoping to resume life as normal, it also raises a series of questions about when — and how — college sports in the state will resume.
“Large gatherings, including live sporting events with audiences, concerts, festivals and conventions will not be able to return until we have a reliable treatment or prevention like a vaccine,” Brown said during a Thursday press conference. “The Oregon Health Authority is advising that any large gathering, at least through September, should either be canceled or significantly modified.”
Oregon State is scheduled to play its home-opener against Colorado State on Sept. 12, followed by home games against Portland State and Washington State later in the month. According to Brown’s guidelines, those games would need to be played without fans in attendance, if they are played at all.
“All options are on the table and we are communicating with the governor's office and we will again here in the next week and a half, or so,” Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said on a conference call Thursday. “Are we going to have a full season? Are we going to have a partial season? Are we going to play with fans or not? All of those things are on the table.”
For the time being, Oregon State awaits further direction from the Pac-12 and college sports’ governing bodies. One thing the school is not planning for, though, is a full cancellation of the of the 2020 football season.
“The one scenario that we are not working on is not playing football,” Barnes said. “We are looking at some scenarios, including playing less games, playing some games with fewer fans… I think it’s obviously prudent and responsible of us to look at every option we can model at this point. As this evolves, we’ll narrow that down to what responsibility looks like.”
Barnes also said that the school is planning for a variety of budget scenarios as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but that it will not cut any athletics programs to ease the financial burden.
“I can tell you that we have every potential option on the table except that — we do not have cutting sports on the table as an option,” Barnes said.
Many Division I schools around the nation have furloughed athletic department employees, and schools such as Cincinnati and Old Dominion have cut specific, non revenue-generating programs.
In April, Oregon State announced that Barnes, football coach Jonathan Smith and men’s basketball Wayne Tinkle would donate seven percent of their annual salaries over the next year in order to ease the financial burden on the athletic department. OSU also restructured its annual facilities debt and mandated a hiring pause until further notice.
There has been no information provided by the NCAA or Pac-12 as to when college programs will be able to resume team workouts and begin training camp for the upcoming season. But Barnes said that Brown’s announcement could push Oregon State to provide some direction for its athletes.
“The idea of returning to self-directed, voluntary workouts, as an example, with the facility opening soon, those are local decisions, in my mind,” Barnes said. “Because you’re being informed by your local health authorities and guided by your local health authorities… I would rather put my student athletes in a position to open the facilities in a controlled environment that is controlled by us than have them at a local fitness center where it is not controlled.”
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