LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- No, University of Louisville Athletic Director Vince Tyra cannot say if the Cardinals’ college football season will start as scheduled in September. Ditto for basketball. Or any sport.
Blame the ongoing uncertainty around the novel coronavirus.
Yes, Tyra believes that play could begin and then be interrupted because of the pandemic. Yes, he believes forfeits are possible.
No, he was not surprised two members of the basketball program tested positive this week, prompting a two-week suspension of voluntary activities for the program that started Tuesday.
No, that has not stopped the program from moving into Phase 3 of its athletic return to campus, with nearly 275 athletes here this week. No other programs have suspended voluntary workouts and no facilities have closed.
Yes, indoor sports are at greater risk than sports played outdoors
About six hours after the basketball announcement Tuesday, Tyra answered questions on a teleconference.
Here are highlights:
Question: How did the basketball situation develop?
Tyra: “When these two individuals, they exhibited some signs, we had the ability to test them on Monday and I think because we're a part of that (U of L) health system, we’re able to get those tests right away and the results back within hours.
“We basically refer to the, I'll say our phone tree of notifications and follow-through, and quarantining those involved. At that point, we go into contact tracing and make sure that we've got everybody covered in the program.
“Then from here we'll monitor them, get them food service and all the good things you need to do to get back in good health, but certainly take all the necessary precautions that I think are appropriate and our program dictates.
“We'll have tests again on Wednesday, tomorrow, as we would and then there'll be a test again next Wednesday, along with the other athletes to try to see where we are and hopefully as we get to those tests next week we're in good shape with our basketball program.
“There's no one else testing positive or we'll see about that, but certainly next Wednesday will be a bid day, hoping there’s 72 hours to know that they're symptom free, and no fevers and so forth and then we'll go from there.
“One of the individuals already feels fine. Today, the other one still has some symptoms but we'll gauge it and we'll go from there as we track this in the coming days.”
Question: Does this give you pause on your timetable with football eight weeks away, and how do you not let this go sideways?
Tyra: “I think to answer the second one first, that's why we have the protocols and I say that we have luxuries here at Louisville that some schools don’t.
“We have access to tests and we get quick turnarounds. Having been through it myself and got a couple tests done and turnarounds back within four hours. We're able to turn around quickly and hopefully prevent any additional spread that I know that some schools are certainly worried about, as far as growing wildly or things like that.
“I think the other thing is just, it's a situation where you just have to continue to educate. It's not something to where somebody steps outside the box of your protocols … it can happen, it's going to happen.
“The good thing is, notify us if you're not feeling well. We tell our student-athletes and staff, if you’re not feeling well then, stay home.
“This is certainly not a situation where you should feel pressure to, as we've all been raised, to get to work or get to practice. I think this is a different scenario. It's not one where you shame somebody if they do step a foul, you've just got to educate. This is something like we've all never experienced, so it's all we can really do at this point.”
Question: What is your expectation to have a sustained season in any sport? Is basketball at greater risk because it is played indoors?
Tyra: “Well, I would say that anything indoors is probably a greater risk than anything outdoors. I think it just dictates where we are with the virus at the time that season gets off versus where we are today.
“Today, certainly you hate to speculate on whether we kick off on time or not. All we can do is prepare for what we have on the schedule today.
“We certainly have to be thinking about other scenarios along the way but our focus has really been on that. And, when instances like this come up, be prepared to deal with them and everybody act aggressively, and follow the protocols.
“That's how we've been fortunate in our testing, in our results. But I'm really happy with the way, if you can believe you can say that under the circumstances, I’m happy with the way people responded. Exactly according to the plan, no panic, handle it, deal with it and now we'll go from here.”
Question: Do you have decision deadlines on playing the opener against North Carolina State Sept. 2?
Tyra: Obviously, it's interesting because as we've talked about there's no football czar, so I think inside the Autonomy Five, the Power Five conferences, we do have a subcommittee, we do talk about it, we have AD meetings a couple times a week.
“But, … we're going to continue to monitor the medical information and … you have to know that if you're going into the season, you're going to run into instances like we're running into right now. At least that's my belief.
“Now who gets to set the date? I think this is going to being collaborative and when that gets set still is an unknown, because I think people are still focused on what's going on. There's a lot of monitoring going on. We discuss these situations that individual campuses are having.
“Knowing that practice starts in the next few weeks, you have to believe that's going to be it. So, we're running out of time here for something to come down on a start date at the beginning of September and whether there's any delay in those dates.”
Question: If positive tests develop during the season, do you have to have plans for a shutdown?
Tyra: “Yeah, I think you have to be prepared for that. I think that’s where that you get into situations, whether it’s no competition or you’re going to miss a game or forfeit. It’s hard to believe that would occur.
“Those are things we’re going to be dealing with for the first time. A lot of it, you’d love to say you’re going to have it all papered out before you start the first competition in these fall sports or winter sports.
“It feels like it’s going to be mostly decided before we start and figured out along the way.”
Question: Why did two tests convince you to shut down?
Tyra: “Well I think we’re just in a cautious stage. There’s two that come up like that, I think you’ve got to think about where were your athletes and is there any contact tracing that you run?
“And I didn’t feel pressed to put them back, or did coach (Chris) Mack, to put them back in the gym, right way. Let’s just take a time out.
“Let the contact tracing run by campus health and see where we are. If we’re off, we’re off. But I’m going to err on the side of caution right now.”
Question: Dan Gavitt (the director of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament) has proposed moving the college basketball season up. Rick Pitino has proposed moving it back. What is your position?
Tyra: “I’m not sure I have a position on either right now. I’m more focused on the fall sports than the winter sports. I’ve been thinking about, men’s and women’s soccer and things like that, more than I have basketball to date.
“I know we’re back on campus and so forth. And everybody knows the importance of it, but you can’t let the economics drive the safety issues here.
“I think that’s why I’m willing to be cautious with the timetables and we just have to deal with the outcomes. We’ve dealt with that to date and having to make some tough decisions on how to maintain our athletic department.
“If that entails, if safety means more tough decisions, then so be it. It’s not exciting to think about that. But as of right now we’ve been fortunate. We’re only going to see the headlines where there’s bad news, we’re not seeing the headlines where there is good news on these things
“It’s good to be able to collect the data and watch and see what other schools are doing and what’s occurring. And then how it occurred.
“Because I think since we’re dealing with this for the first time, it’s what was the root cause of the issue? Is it something that’s controllable? And deal with it from there.
“In my mind, think about the practices that we take in terms of cleaning facilities and things like that. Sanitizers. Wash their hands and masks.
“I’m proud that when I look out the window in my office and see these athletes walking up and down the street. Like today the full volleyball team, all in masks, 90-plus degrees or whatever it was out there today, wearing their masks. We all need to do that.”
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