UCF Athletics Director Danny White is, like all of us, in a state of shock.
Within the day prior to his Friday afternoon press conference, he saw the American Athletic Conference cancel its men’s basketball tournament and then most every other conference follow suit.
UCF put out a statement during this slew of cancellations notifying spectators that they wouldn’t be allowed to attend any home athletic contests indefinitely — and then that was topped four hours later by the AAC suspending all competition until further notice.
And In between that window, the NCAA announced that all winter and spring sports championships — basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, rowing, etc. — are off.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” White said of the past 24 hours of activity. “Been (like) drinking from a firehose a little bit.”
Here are a handful of the top takeaways from White’s 15-minute availability Friday.
1. The football spring game will likely be postponed
This isn’t the most important thing White said Friday; the spring game is still just a glorified practice. But for many — most? — UCF Knights fans, that event is the highlight of the athletics calendar between February and July.
This kind of announcement was a fait accompli, especially after the likes of Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan canceled their spring game. White wouldn’t go that far yet, saying that “we’ll definitely be looking at postponing” the game.
“We don’t know yet what spring football is going to look like,” he added.
The spring game is still slated to be held on April 4, but I’d expect an official announcement that it will be postponed this week. White remains open to the idea of playing the spring game at a later date, so I’m not sure if cancellation is on the table right now. That, much like everything else, probably hinges on how the novel coronavirus progresses over the next few weeks.
Emergency Podcast @Jeff_Sharon, @Spokes_Murphy & @EricLopezELO recap the most stunning 30 hours in sports in our lifetime with the widespread cancellation of every American sporting event, and talk about what happens next.#COVID19 #UCF https://t.co/ThhykZt3pz— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCF_Banneret) March 13, 2020
2. Restrictions and guidelines for all UCF teams and student-athletes
For all fall and winter sports (football, basketball soccer, volleyball)
- No practices or competitions for two weeks. Media availabilities for spring football were also postponed for two weeks.
- Student-athletes will still have access to the university’s practice facilities, nutrition center, weight room and sports medicine complex on a voluntary basis.
“There’s no such thing as mandatory right now,” White said. “If [student-athletes] want to be here, I think that they’re probably the safest here with all of the resources we have.”
For all spring sports (baseball, softball, rowing, golf, tennis, track and field)
- No competition for two weeks.
- Some spring sports will be allowed to follow their practice schedule, but which sports are allowed to do this will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
For ALL sports
- Per NCAA policy, on- and off-campus in-person recruiting is prohibited through April 15. No off-campus evaluations will be allowed either. Coaches may still reach out to prospective student-athletes via text, email, social media and phone.
There is no sense of what’s the *right* thing to do in this moment. White understands this, but he is most interested in doing what he thinks is best for his student-athletes.
“Obviously, this has been an unprecedented week in college sports,” he said. “Concerned about everybody’s health and well-being, but our primary responsibility is these student-athletes and we’re going to make sure that we’re doing the very best things for their safety and their health. Working through a lot of decisions the last few days and I imagine we’ll continue that moving forward.
3. White wants all winter sport and spring sport student-athletes to receive another year of eligibility
Before White spoke, the NCAA announced that it plans to give another year of eligibility to student-athletes who participate in spring sports. But White wants the NCAA to go one step further.
“I don’t think we should stop at the spring sports. Just because the winter sports got to play the whole regular season, you can’t snatch away that championship opportunity,” he said.
White acknowledged that granting all spring sport student-athletes another year will create “some complications” when it comes to scholarship limits. But beyond that, how will it be paid for? Will roster limits be expanded? What about the weekly and daily limits on practice times; won’t those have to be raised as well to help the greater number of players at the collegiate level?
It’s nice that spring sport student-athletes are getting an extra year of eligibility. But how to deal with everything that comes with it is far, far, far from concrete. White will do whatever he can to make sure winter sport student-athletes receive the same benefit, but that ultimately seems unlikely.
Corrected: @NCAA has granted eligibility relief for ALL athletes in these spring sports:— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) March 13, 2020
Beach volleyball (women), golf (men, women), baseball, lacrosse (m,w), rowing (w), softball, tennis (m,w), outdoor track (m,w), men's volleyball, water polo (women).
4. What is the future of AAC spring sport competitions?
For now, play has been suspended. But could the American’s spring sports resume in the not-too-distant future?
“That’s the most complicated thing we’re trying to figure out right now,” White said. “... I don’t know where we’re going to be 2-3 weeks from now with this virus. If things are in a much better situation and there’s a path forward to salvage some semblance of spring season, then we’d be open to that. But we’re learning as we go here. Things are evolving hourly.”
Unfortunately, any optimism on this front took a big hit Friday night when the Big 12 announced the cancellation of all spring athletic events through the end of the academic year.
Due to the on-going developments related to COVID-19 the Big 12 Conference announces tha conference and non-conference competitions are cancelled through the end of the academic year.— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) March 13, 2020
The Atlantic Sun Conference did the same. This might seem like a rash move, but again, no one knows what is the exact right move to make in this situation. A lot of fans will label this as overly cautious, but I’m sure athletic directors would prefer that over the inverse.
As we saw with the conference basketball tournaments, once one domino falls, the rest tend to come in short order. We’ll see if this is the road the AAC decides to travel down, but I would not hold my breath about seeing any UCF Knights games, matches or meets for the rest of the spring.
5. His contract extension
It’s not the reason why he got in front of cameras Friday, but since this was the first time White had been made public since agreeing to a five-year contract extension earlier in the week, of course he was asked about it.
He said what you would expect, giving credit to the players, coaches and staffs and reiterating his desire to develop a perennial top-25 athletics department at UCF. The usual fare.
White’s press conference concluded with these lines, which will surely make any UCF fan smile: “I’d be crazy for thinking about going anywhere. We’re just really lucky to be here.”