The coronavirus outlook for Gamecocks sports for the spring of 2020
March 15, 2020/ THE STATE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT
South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner sat at a podium facing far more questions than he had answers to. His time speaking publicly Friday had been bumped back twice as new information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact continued to come in at a rapid-fire rate throughout the day.
He spoke first and foremost about safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff. But throughout, there was a sort of essential tension that underlined the answers of the more logistical questions.
The vague possibility exists for some kind of athletic competition or spring football practice down the line. By the same token, University of South Carolina athletics are in most ways shutting down.
“We first came out that we would be allowed to practice,” Tanner said. “There would be no games or competition, but you could practice. And we quickly got past that. So now there’s no activity at all. And (South Carolina coaches) were surprised, but they want to do the right thing. What’s the right thing to do? And where we are is, the right thing to do is to be at home or to vacate.”
The university was already on spring break this past week. Athletes not on campus were told not to return. The ones on campus have the option to leave. Athletics facilities and weight rooms are closed, although the academic center and training rooms will remain open.
The SEC banned all games and team or individual activity until at least April 15, and even after then things are uncertain. Tanner said Will Muschamp’s spring football was “postponed” but not outright canceled.
The only USC spring sports that have games, matches or events scheduled before after the ban ends are baseball, softball and track. If competition resumed, Tanner pointed out that teams would likely need a short practice period to ramp up, a “spring training period” in his words.
“There are just more questions than there are answers,” Tanner said. “The focus right now, as I said, is the coronavirus and to try to get in a situation that we’re doing our part on this campus and our student-athletes are doing their part. Let’s try to get this mitigated and eliminated.”
The places where a fluid situation left little in the way of concrete answers included the structure of any competition if it were to resume, or when football’s final 10 practices could happen (possibly after April 15 but dependent on where things go from here).
All told, there are more than 90 Gamecock events that are still on the docket or have been canceled, not counting conference championships, or NCAA championships such as the men’s and women’s College World Series that have already been canceled.
Asked if any athletes are being encouraged to hone their skills on their own or being discouraged from getting together with teammates to work, Tanner said the message has essentially been without focus on skill training or anything in the vein.
“To tell them to go somewhere and train or stay in shape, that hasn’t been the conversation,” Tanner said. “At least I hope that hasn’t been the conversation. And I don’t believe that has been. We’re trying to make sure that our athletes have an opportunity to stay at home. ... That’s where we would like for them to be.”