Below is the transcript of SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey’s media teleconference. Names of speakers are on the left of each statement. This is courtesy of the SEC office.
Chuck Dunlap: Thank you. Good morning, everyone, and thank you being with us on relatively short notice. Given the events around the country that have transpired since last week and our announcement yesterday regarding the remainder of the 2019/2020 athletic year, we thought it important to provide this opportunity today.
Commissioner Sankey will begin with some opening remarks, and then we’ll take questions. For those of you who are familiar with our football calls, you please press star one to be placed in queue to ask a question. So with that, I’ll hand it over to Commissioner Greg Sankey.
Greg Sankey: Thank you, Chuck, and I’ll thank each of you. There’s much going on in the world around us, unique and challenging times, certainly, and interruptions to our daily lives that we’ve not experienced certainly since 911, and not in this way, at least in my lifetime.
As Chuck noted, I felt the need as we make announcements to engage with the media to provide context, or information, as available or appropriate, to explain our decision making.
Last Wednesday, literally, at this time, we were sitting in an athletic director’s meeting in the midst of a discussion about the impacts of the coronavirus. Our imaginations at that time hadn’t gone to the extent we’ve experienced over the last week, although, we had a number of contingency plans.
While sports are not near the top of our collective concerns right now, we do have both a responsibility and, I think, the reality that people care greatly about the Southeastern Conference, our universities, our coaches, our student athletes, and the experiences we provide, and we are greatly appreciative for their care and their passion.
I’m also appreciative for the many expressions of support as people have recognized the difficult decisions that we’ve had to walk through just like our colleagues have, both at the college and professional level.
The actions that we’ve taken in the last seven days have impacted our way of life, your way of life, in significant ways, and there’s great interest in each of these decisions.
The cancellation and suspension of events is a reality tied to the public health issues we’re experiencing, and the spread and the desire to slow the spread of the coronavirus and that has informed our decision making.
It’s important for us, in fact, I’d say imperative, that we address these issues through a community lens. While we are athletic leaders, athletic administrators, we want to do whatever we can to help reduce the risk of exposure and the spread of COVID-19.
By way of review, the decisions made so far last Wednesday afternoon after the NCAA announced its decision to withhold fans from attending NCAA tournament games, we communicated the same, that was to begin on Thursday. I announced that publicly on Wednesday evening.
Thursday morning, we met with athletics directors, our presidents and chancellors, some of whom were there in person in Nashville, others via conference call. Before any NCAA announcement later that day, we announced two actions. One was to cancel the remainder of our men’s basketball tournament.
The second to suspend competition in the Southeastern Conference, both conference and non-conference competition for essentially three weekends through March 30. We re-engaged on Friday, first with our athletics directors. We looked a little bit further on the horizon as we learned more about public health information.
They provided a recommendation to our presidents and chancellors that we could discontinue all athletic activities in the Southeastern Conference which included team and individual practices, meetings and other organized gatherings through, at least, April 15.
Yesterday, you saw an announcement, we’re announcing we have cancelled all regular season conference and non-conference competitions for the remainder of the 2019-20 athletic year that syncs up with the academic calendar, so the remainder of our spring sports.
That includes the remainder of all of our SEC championship events. We also made a statement that we will not conduct spring football games in the conference nor any so-called “pro-day activities” on our campuses moving forward through the rest of this term.
We’ve cancelled conference championships now and, by my count, 11 of our 21 sports, indicating how busy the spring is for us in the conference office and on our campuses. That includes men’s basketball, gymnastics, equestrian, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, softball and baseball.
We do understand the impact of each of those events, some on campus, some conducted at neutral sites, and I want to express my appreciation for how each of our host, particularly, for neutral site championships, has communicated with us, (I think) us with them and our staff, and those around those neutral site events and understanding the unique position in which we’ve all been placed.
We’ve also stated clearly the need to provide care and support to our student athletes through necessary and essential services, those include providing academic support which is particularly important given that most of our universities, the vast majority, have gone from primarily classroom instruction to online learning.
We’ve also changed the foundation of our student athlete’s lives. We’ve heard much about time demands, but the regularity of that schedule in many ways can be an asset, and we continue to provide medical care where needed.
We understand the impact on student athlete mental health for many who have lost their opportunity for a championship in the immediate view, those in the winter sports, have a longer view to compete through a conference schedule. And, ultimately, for conference and national championships, those opportunities have been removed.
Where appropriate, because of housing circumstances, housing and nutritional support is provided on our campuses still. Many of our campuses have seen their student athletes depart and return to home.
So, with those opening comments, I’ll do my best. I think I’ve been told we have probably set a record for an SEC conference call today with numbers, so I’ll do my best to entertain questions. I will note some questions right now are unanswerable.
I have said last week for those of you who were attendance in person, “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer, and we have an obligation to figure out what those answers will be moving forward.
And we’re in one of those circumstances in life where there may be more, “I don’t knows,” than “I know,” how something will play out. So with that, I’ll turn back to Chuck and our moderator to see what questions may be presented.
Chuck Dunlap: A brief reminder, before we begin to take questions, we will provide a full transcript, an audio, of today’s call, on SEC’s sports.com, and I will e-mail it to all of you as well. So with that, the questions. Press star one, and we’ll begin with Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.
Dennis Dodd: Yes, I think their fiscal year ends for about on June 30. Is – are all those shares in – is all that revenue in pretty much, and how might this impact that bottom line a year from now, on June 30?
Greg Sankey: Well, the financial impact, candidly, Dennis, has not been at the forefront of our conversations. We’ve made decisions based on the health and the well-being of people around our programs. There certainly are revenue implications.
We have staff working through those. I’m certain every conference is working to assess the financial impact, and I’m not going to make predictions other than we’ve seen alterations in the NCAA tournament that, no doubt, will have a financial impact.
I’m grateful to be in the Southeastern Conference. There’s no place I’d rather be, in these tumultuous times, and – and I’m certain we’ll move forward financially in a positive way, but we’ll have to figure out all the adjustments and impacts in the days and weeks ahead.
Dennis Dodd: Thank you.
Chuck Dunlap: Next, we’ll go Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel.
Edgar Thompson: Yes, hey Greg, just to be clear, spring games cancelled, does that mean no spring football practices, that they’re off completely, even …
Greg Sankey: It does not apply to spring practices at this time, and I think that’s the important qualifying phrase. We have said, no athletic activities through April 15. That doesn’t mean we’ll be back to normal or to practice activities April 16, it was just a date that allows our administrators to communicate with our coaches, our coaches with their student athletes, has resulted in – in the departures from campus.
If you look at the national public messaging about no gatherings above 50, (it is) certainly difficult to conduct any football practice under that limitation, and even with smaller numbers, it had been communicated 10, as often referenced, thereby making it impossible into May, has been stated.
So, I’m not going to be overly optimistic about the return to practice. We haven’t fully foreclosed that opportunity, but I think practically that window’s pretty narrow.
Edgar Thompson: OK. And spring meeting, is that something that is out – (that you’ll) do online, I mean, do over video chats and things or – or what?
Greg Sankey: We have not – we have not – what I have is a 3-page calendar of events in which we’re involved. We have another list of kind of non-SEC specific activities involving our staff or our membership, I’m not sure how long that calendar may be, so there’s two different calendars.
That first, the 3-pager, starts right this week. We were supposed to have an officiating training session for football because we don’t – we don’t simply start Labor Day weekend with football, there’s a lot of prep. That’s now a video training session for our football officials. I use that as a reference to indicate we’re adjusting rapidly.
Under review, when we get into May, so pretty much through April, everything has been cancelled, we get into May, and some things will be conducted via alternate delivery, we haven’t cancelled spring meetings yet, but we’re looking at contingency planning given the practicalities and realities presented to us at this time.
Edgar Thompson: Thanks for doing this call, Greg. Appreciate it.
Greg Sankey: Yes, you’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next, we’ll have Jimmy Hyams, Knoxville sports radio.
Jimmy Hahn: Commissioner, have you – have an opinion in regard to whether or not spring sport athletes should be given another year of eligibility?
Greg Sankey: I’m certainly open to that. I’ve seen the national messaging, I actually printed about eight pages of analysis from our conference compliance staff. Myself and my colleagues have had just preliminary discussions about what might this mean. I know among the conferences, there’s conversations, as well, you know, the first read is, that’s an appropriate step.
From my perspective, yet, we have to understand the full set of implications, and I hope we’ll move through those rapidly because I think one of the assets for our young people is knowing definitively what their eligibility status will be going forward.
I do want to say, I don’t think this is simply a senior issue. Everybody in our programs, particularly, spring sports, had their season disrupted, so my encouragement is we take a broad look at what type of opportunities we offer going forward.
Jimmy Hahn: I know there are a lot of things on the table. Is there any idea when that might be addressed?
Greg Sankey: I know nationally there’s work taking place now, Jimmy, but I don’t have a date certain when an answer will be provided.
Jimmy Hahn: Thank you.
Greg Sankey: You’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next will be Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News.
Cecil Hurt: Commissioner, in terms of championship events on campus, excuse me, does the rotation for those with – with the institution that were in rotation for this year – will there be accommodation made for them or do they simply have to wait their turn in the next rotation?
Greg Sankey: I’ll say definitely, I don’t think it’s wait another 14 years. We have a championship working group that’s one of our standing committees and through our staff meetings, virtually this week, we’ve already signed to them the consideration of the rotation, Cecil, you’re in Tuscaloosa, obviously, and softball was scheduled to be hosted by the University of Alabama.
We don’t just automatically, right now, put things forward, that’s a conversation with our membership, but I also am confident we’re not going to be waiting 14 years for that opportunity to come back around.
Cecil Hurt: Thank you, Commissioner.
Greg Sankey: You’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next is Seth Emerson at The Athletic.
Seth Emerson: Hey Greg. Obviously, you guys were caught off guard by the (inaudible) announcement of the spring sports championships cancellation. Given, I guess, more time to reflect on that, how do you feel about the communication there and the decision, do you feel, ultimately, it was the right one, but that you all wish you had been consulted?
Greg Sankey: Sitting here today, there’s clarity around right decisions, and that would be in the category of right decisions, and what’s been interesting is in real time, I think, for example, (LSU baseball coach) Paul Mainieri was on with Paul Finebaum, and he learned, while on the air, of that decision.
I had learned from a text message, from the NCAA national office as I was in the arena dealing with our decision, so keep in mind, we decided to suspend our competition for three weeks based upon the information we had available.
And what I expressed was surprise in that moment because I didn’t know that was on the agenda last Thursday, number one, and said I want to learn more about the decision-making process.
There will be a time to learn more, and I think my Division I colleagues have the same interest that I have and how, perhaps, we could have communicated better, but everyone was working in real time to make the best decisions on the best available information, and that’s the way things played out on Thursday, is that we’re going to learn in short order, but pretty big decision.
I do think some – some messaging is important, so I think Jimmy asked about the status of spring sports student athletes’ eligibility. I think that’s actually a really important issue to work through in relatively short order so that young people around our programs have clarity on what’s next for their future.
Cecil Hurt: Thanks, Greg.
Greg Sankey: You’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next, we’ll go to Tom Murphy with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Tom Murphy: Hi Greg, (inaudible). Thanks for having this teleconference. Regarding football, what’s the practicality of moving the NCAA calendar to get in practice after May and, possibly, into June?
Greg Sankey: Let’s not – what I’d say is, let’s not just define some structure. I’m confident, in fact, if we’re not able to practice further this spring, I’m confident that we’ll be seeking opportunities to make sure our teams our adequately prepared heading into the season.
Elements of that are going to be guided by the public health realities in front of us. By way of background, our athletics directors now have a daily conference call. We took Sunday off this past weekend, but we’ve spoken for an hour or more every day identifying issues.
I expect we’ll have a smaller group from our campuses examine issues around out of season practice in football, in soccer and in volleyball, to think about as we turn the page, head to the next chapter of 2020-21, given what’s occurred, the disruption that’s occurred, how do we best allow our teams and support our teams in preparation.
So that’s – I don’t mean to be obtuse in that answer, it’s just we’re dealing with a lot of these undefined circumstances, but know in our mind is how do we help our teams adequately prepare in advance of the fall season.
Tom Murphy: Thank you.
Greg Sankey: You’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next one is Tony Barnhart for the SEC Network.
Tony Barnhart: Commissioner, obviously, SEC Media Days is going to be in Atlanta this year, and there’s a lot of moving parts, can you give any sense of what the process will be like because I would assume there – there is going to come a date where the decision has to be made, in advance, of that event in Atlanta.
Greg Sankey: I’m going to be half-full right now, Tony, and say we’re full steam ahead on our Atlanta planning for Media Days. Last Thursday morning, I was full steam ahead on planning a basketball tournament and was disrupted, so we’re going to prepare for disruption, but we’re going to plan as if, in July, we’ll have the Media Days opportunity as scheduled, and that’s the best answer I can give you at this moment.
Tony Barnhart: Thank you.
Greg Sankey: Yes, you’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next will be Jerry Tipton, of the Lexington Herald Leader.
Jerry Tipton: Yes, Greg, I wonder with the – giving the possibility of giving athletes an extra year of eligibility, how that might – or should it apply to men’s basketball players who played a full season, but, of course, have post-season competition?
Greg Sankey: Jerry, I think that applies to a set of winter sports and we’ll just observe my view that we need to deal in a time efficient manner with the spring sport situation. There does need to be a conversation about the disrupted winter sports, which, for us, would include both men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and diving, gymnastics, and equestrian.
I don’t have the answer to that right now, even in my mind. We have – with some sports that played their entire regular season, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, but had their national championship disrupted, we had some that completed their conference championship, as well, in women’s basketball, they had the whole tournament, not just the national championship event in front of them. And then, you know, men’s basketball, gymnastics and equestrian had more disruption.
I know that’s an agenda item nationally, I don’t have a prediction right now, just like with spring sports, I’m certainly open to the conversation, but I think spring sports needs to move forward in a time efficient manner, perhaps, there’s a deeper look into what happened with – what happens with winter sports eligibility.
Jerry Tipton: And just as a follow – how much thought has been given to, financially, scholarships, scholarship limits and if you grant an extra year, and you’ve got incoming freshmen coming in, I wonder if there’s any flexibility there as far as scholarship limits.
Greg Sankey: That’s – that eight pages of analysis our conference compliance staff has conducted includes those issues and more, Jerry, and I think people have identified those outwardly as, “Well, what are we going to do about scholarship limits, what are we going to do about those who signed with certain expectations?”
So, there are a number of sensitivities here that merit the kind of discussion that I know is occurring right now. Again, my encouragement is that be done in a relatively time efficient manner. And given that there’s eight pages of information, you can imagine there’s a pretty deep analysis that can be taken by those who spend time on the compliance issues every day.
Jerry Tipton: Thanks a lot.
Chuck Dunlap: Next will be Brooks Kubina of the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Brooks Kubina: Hey Greg and I came at the end of your opening statement so I apologize if it’s something you covered then. Have you or – I mean, are you aware of any players or coaches or anybody within the conference that is yet gotten coronavirus and what would be the plan if that happened and just how would – how would the conference’s response be to that?
Greg Sankey: Those questions are appropriately answered by local health and campus health officials, not by conference office. We started, Brooks, if you back up, late January, with a communication plan with our – with our institution so we could be aware of what was happening.
There was some actually national media reports about positive tests on our campus that proved not to be accurate. And so rather than the conference communicating about positive tests on campus, that’s appropriately done by our campuses. What – what would we do, what we’ve done is stop activities.
We’ve stopped activities because we want to stop the potential for spread if people do have positive tests, and that is intended as a proactive circumstance because we didn’t, I know, have any positive tests a week ago among our student athlete population, and so our intent is to try to stop the spread within our athletics programs to the greatest extent possible on our end.
Brooks Kubina: Thank you.
Greg Sankey: You’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next we’ll go to John Zenor of the Associated Press.
John Zenor: Hey Greg. Like everybody else, I appreciate you doing this. This is, obviously, not one of the huge issues, but I’m curious if there were conversations about Pro Days and the alternative methods about screening or, you know, have really limited personnel there. Were there any of those kind of discussions?
Greg Sankey: The discussions, really, are about the number of people who would participate, the limitations on gathering people. The end of our semesters, our distance learning where people are spread far and wide right now, and the need to understand the NFL’s vision for gathering information.
They’ve, obviously, done a great deal of that work, we’ve gone through combines, and individuals can set up their own workouts depending on what may be permitted with professional teams.
So that’s not going to be involving our campuses on Pro Days, but this is about the NFL gathering information and its teams and given the limitations on our campuses, the limitations on public gatherings, that’s what guided our decision making.
John Zenor: OK, thank you.
Chuck Dunlap: Next is Josh Kendall …
Greg Sankey: I’m sorry, I put mute there to ask you a question in the room, so if you want to insight into the conference call, we’re going to Josh, is what I was told. Josh Kendall.
Josh Hindle: Hey, I’m here, Greg, can you hear me?
Greg Sankey: Yes, I (inaudible) seems like so long ago, doesn’t it, Josh?
Josh Hindle: A different world, wasn’t it, yes, I’ll tell you. Have you – this is probably – if it’s anywhere on your list, way down, but have you – or do you anticipate looking at some sort of alternative plans for the football season or is that a bridge that’s just too far away to consider?
Greg Sankey: Our focus is on preparing for the 2021 academic year, the fall seasons, as currently scheduled, so there’s a period on the end of that sentence.
Well obviously, I think about everything going forward because we’re being guided by public health information in decision making, but my hope is we can return to our normal organized activities, our normal experiences and be part of that celebration around soccer or volleyball, cross-country, football in the fall. But, we’ll have to see.
Josh Hindle: Thanks, Greg.
Greg Sankey: Yes.
Chuck Dunlap: Next we’ll go to Michael Smith of the Sports Business Journal.
Michael Smith: Yes, Greg, my question was pretty similar, how optimistic are you that we’ll have a complete football season?
Greg Sankey: I’m a half-full perspective person, so I have optimism. We have taken measures as have our colleague conferences, at this time, I think that if I read those health leaders, we’re going to have a period of time to see what happens with the growth of these cases and we’ll make decisions down the road.
So, for me, my responsibility is to continue to support the public health decision making, but also to be prepared to do our work as assigned to us, and we have – we’ve categorized things, Michael and everyone.
One is to be focused, one, on the work we have. The second is to make sure we’re prepared for next year as planned. And the third is to engage in big picture thinking which is contingency planning, but also, strategic planning.
And as we adjust to the fact that no-one’s complaining to me about umpires right now and that opens up a little bit of space, we want to use that time wisely. I did – we had a baseball coach’s conference call.
When I joined, I said I’d much rather be talking to some of you about baseball umpiring problems over the weekend than what we’re talking about now, but as we adjust to this new normal, we’re going to be thinking about a lot of things.
Michael Smith: Thank you
Chuck Dunlap: Next, we’ll go to Alex Byington of the Montgomery Advertiser.
Alex Byington: Hey Greg. Has the conference, at all, you know, discussed or made any recommendations about, you know, student athletes – what their (not necessarily) permitted, but what – what you recommend they do when they’re on this off-time and how to possibly avoid spreading or contracting this virus?
Greg Sankey: If I understand properly, our schools are communicating regularly with their student athletes about their personal health expectations, and I think are being very intentional about the education.
I have not surveyed all 14 schools about their strategies. We made decisions on Friday that were very disruptive to their seasons. I’ve heard, kind of on an ad hoc basis, about really effective communication at the campus level with our student athletes as we were making decisions so they could communicate in a proactive way to their student athletes.
On Monday, the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel, the Sports Science Institute sent out advisories that are similar to everything we’ve seen.
I know schools are sharing local and national health advisories, and then the issue is, how do we maintain connection so individual conversations are fine, I’m certain that some level of workout given that people are kind of away from gyms, away from strength programs and, candidly, part of what we have to do, is given that we’re in remote situations, can we use technology to maintain connection with student athletes.
What does that mean from a – from a team building – from an athletically related activities in a remote setting. We’re trying to learn about those and provide the proper guidance still.
Alex Byington: Thanks, Greg.
Chuck Dunlap: Let’s try Matt Fortuna, of The Athletic.
Matt Fortuna: Matt Fortuna, everyone. Just kind of learning more about this thing each and every day. In your opinion, what’s the best approach for the NCAA with you guys and with other conferences moving forward with this early to just communicating the best path moving forward, as far as, eligibility practices, you name it, I mean, what – what’s kind of the communication been like as far as formulating a plan here between the conferences and the NCAA?
Greg Sankey: I have to think about the last week to try to answer that question in an informative way. In fact, I was just reading before this call, some of the messages Friday. I think Friday we received an update on the suspension of recruiting.
I think there’s been a request for input on these eligibility issues. I think that’s helpful. I’m not completely clear on how and when decisions will be made in regard to these eligibility questions about which you’ve asked me because they are national issues.
I think just like we’ve modeled in this conference, I’ve spoken of daily calls with my athletics directors, we’ve had three calls in a week with presidents and chancellors, and are scheduling those out weekly.
My encouragement, and I think we’re planning on doing this for the conference commissioners to have at least weekly communication with members of the NCAA national office leadership and staff, so that we can all keep – be updated and have some interaction moving forward.
Chuck Dunlap: Next we’ll go to Mac Engel, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Mac Engel: Commissioner, thanks for doing this, I appreciate it. It seems like, because of the sport of basketball, it has an element in the ball itself that could be the most, I guess, the word dangerous is applicable here, that once basketball’s allowed to come back and the NBA says it’s clear to play, that everybody can sort of follow suit. Do you find that to be true, that once basketball is deemed OK, that maybe everything can start returning to its regular routine?
Greg Sankey: I don’t know that to be true because I’m not an immunologist. I’m not an infectious disease researcher, and we’re going to have to trust the guidance of the medical community and the science community in making those decisions.
I think the potential of playing basketball versus putting on football helmets and pads and being in a room with a 125 people, is a different dynamic, so I can’t provide you that answer. That’s one of those, I don’t know that we’re going to have to work to find the answer out collectively.
Mac Engel: In terms of this, Commissioner, are people looking at any other sport as the leader in terms of, if they go first, then we can do this, or do you think sport is collectively looking at global leaders and the world health organization, things like that in order to move forward?
Greg Sankey: I can speak for myself. I’m – I’m looking to the health experts to guide us. I’m also interested in what other sport organizations do right now.
Last Thursday morning, we saw the circumstance in the Oklahoma City-Utah game where a Utah player tested positive, saw that story right as I was walking into a press conference, and then that the NBA had suspended its season, and you start to process that information, so there are learning experiences for us all in regard to what we do in sport, but each of us is looking to the health experts to guide our decision making.
Mac Engel: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Greg Sankey: You’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: Next we’ll go to Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
Parrish Alford: Hey Greg. From an economic impact standpoint, getting away from a projection, can you tell us a little bit about language and the contracts and what might happen in those TV contracts if the SEC is suddenly unavailable to provide content?
Greg Sankey: No. Not because I don’t know, but because that’s not my media conference call conversation. I give real credit to those from ESPN and the SEC network dedicated staff who’ve worked to populate Thursday in creative ways, so I was at a dinner after Thursday’s decision making, I looked up, and the Arkansas-Georgia 2008, basketball tournament championship game was being played, and that was a complete pivot.
So, we’ve talked about mechanics with populating the network with interesting programming. Saturdays in the South ran all day on Sunday, and we want to keep more – we want to keep continued interest, but our conversations about the elements in our TV contract will be, as you can imagine, appropriately between ourselves and our TV partners, which are very positive and healthy relationships, and we’ve been in dialogue with them on a daily basis.
Parrish Alford: Thanks.
Chuck Dunlap: Next we’ll go to Ted Cahill, Baseball America.
Ted Cahill: Greg, there’s been some ideas floated about a fall schedule for baseball around the country. Have you seen any of those and do you feel like that could be – even be viable if you had football going on this fall?
Greg Sankey: I’ve not seen those ideas at this point, and would reserve judgement on that at this moment, speaking as a person who played college baseball, back when you played a lot of games in the fall.
Chuck Dunlap: Next we will take Michael Casagrande of al.com.
Michael Casagrande: Greg. (do you) know what happened with the NBA and the way that game and see them suspended and the physical nature of basketball, did you guys consider testing basketball players who are playing in the tournament – who played that Wednesday night game?
Greg Sankey: Our schools were attentive to their health, and I shared that information, I think last week, we’d been in communication with campuses and heard about what they were doing. There aren’t tests available, particularly, if you go back a week. It’s not as if you can just grab a bunch of tests and test everyone, so that, essentially, wasn’t an option, but we’ve not – our schools were attentive to the health of their team, which is a responsibility they fulfill every day.
Michael Casagrande: Thank you.
Chuck Dunlap: Next we’ll go to James Crepea, the Oregonian.
Greg Sankey: Oh, James.
James Crepea: I’ll try not to double the time of the call, Greg.
Greg Sankey: James, I just want to warn you, there’s a time limit on questions now, they implemented for all media.
James Crepea: I’m glad you still have your sense of humor. You referenced the eight pages of compliance analysis on this. Due to the myriad issues involved, is addressing the equivalency model, at large, something you will push or advocate for as you did last summer?
Greg Sankey: First of all, that was a concise question. I thought you were going to ask me to read all eight pages of our analysis. We started last summer looking at the overall scholarship model with an internal working group.
They’ve continued through the year. Our plan is to introduce for conversation alternatives to the existing approach. One is just maintaining the existing approach, and that work goes on, and I don’t think, off the cuff, that the current circumstance has changed the substance of our review.
It’s been a really – a really good exercise by both our staff and our members who are involved, and we’ll look forward to sharing that information across the conference in the coming months. I’m not sure where, now, given the disruption and then likely with colleagues in the year ahead.
James Crepea: To understand the mechanisms involved, Greg, because I realize the NCAA doesn’t have full autonomy on FBS scheduling and decision making, should the time come for decisions on football games in the season, what is the standing timetable and protocol to avoid piecemeal week to week decisions at this point?
Greg Sankey: James, you’ve heard me, that my focus is on preparing for the season as scheduled. Last week, at this time, I was preparing for basketball games, and I think all of us will have a responsibility to contingency plan appropriately without making predictions.
James Crepea: Thank you, Greg.
Greg Sankey: Yes.
Chuck Dunlap: We have time for one more. The commissioner has another conference call to get to so we will finish up with Mark Murphy from Inside the Auburn Tigers.
Mark Murphy: Yes, so (I want to ask about) the policy of, like, not allowing athletes to use university facilities, like, baseball, pitchers can’t go out and throw with the catcher, at this time, or – tennis players can’t go out and play on the university courts and so forth, and is there any particular reason for that?
Greg Sankey: The public health issue. You’ve seen, as I’ve read, major league baseball teams that have sent individuals home, you’ve seen (inaudible) messaging out of NHL teams that says, “Go home, don’t go to gyms.”
You’ve seen, now, states that have closed down gyms to stop the spread, a pretty aggressive step on Friday, a lot of conversation because that can be a connecting point, but the need to create community distance is at the heart of that issue.
Mark Murphy: Thanks.
Greg Sankey: You’re welcome.
Chuck Dunlap: All right. That will finish us up today. Thank you, everyone for being with us, and we wish you well.
Greg Sankey: Thanks, everyone.