Let’s hope he is wrong.
That’s the prevailing sentiment after reading comments from Old Dominion University Athletic Director Wood Selig in a recent newspaper story.
What makes Selig’s opinions even more compelling is the fact he also is serving as the chairman on an influential committee made up of Conference USA officials.
The committee includes athletic directors from Rice, UTEP, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee, along with the senior women’s administrator from Charlotte and a faculty athletic representative from UTSA.
The seven-person panel is called the Future Planning Committee and has been meeting for about seven weeks. Its goal is to reduce expenses for C-USA and its members in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The old saying, ‘everything is on the table,’ that has been true for this exercise,” Selig told David Hall of The Virginian-Pilot. “We’ve got a pretty good feel for where we’re going.”
The committee has formulated three cost-cutting measures.
No. 1: Changing regular-season scheduling for all sports. It could mean fewer games and/or less expensive travel with fewer flights. Divisional play, which currently exists in only football, is a consideration.
No. 2: Altering the championship formats. There could be a reduction in the numbers of participants in each sport’s league tournament. The expenses of running the tournaments along with the school’s expenses also will be examined.
No. 3: Aiding C-USA to curtail expenses by holding online meetings and examining expenses for officials. The committee also has looked at “scheduling alliances” with such geographically friendly leagues as the Sun Belt, Atlantic 10 and American Athletic Conference. Similar measures have been undertaken recently by the Mid-American Conference.
As for Selig, he also voiced personal opinions and speculation. That’s where this raises some eyebrows.
“I think there will be a season,” Selig told the newspaper based in Norfolk, Virginia. “I have no idea what it might look like because there’s so many different levels that it has to clear.
“Is every school on your schedule going to be competing? Who knows? And what happens if we go forward and we’re practicing and ready to play if a team gets two or three guys who come down with COVID-19? And it might not be from competition. It might just be from just daily interaction.”
Selig believes the worst-case scenario for football would be to start the season and then have to stop in midseason because it’s no longer safe.
“Part of me,” Selig was quoted, “I sit here and think, ‘You know what? We might be better off. Let’s just pass on ’20-21. Let’s focus on academics. Let’s just park athletics to the side for a year. Let everybody get ahead academically, work out on their own.’
“But are we kidding ourselves? Is it going to be nothing but starts and stops, starts and stops? Are we focused on what’s truly important? Maybe we should be focused on waiting for the vaccine and other priorities rather than trying to figure out how to get a soccer season in or how to get a basketball season in, in all honesty, in the big picture of things.”
It’s difficult to argue with Selig on a philosophical basis. If all things were equal we would shut everything down and remain closed until a vaccine was available.
But all things aren’t equal.
That’s why practicality has to be the first and foremost consideration rather than philosophical ideals. It’s also where many people will differ with Selig.
“I’ve told our people I think we’re on a three-year cycle,” said Selig. “I think this coming year, ’20-21, it’s going to be excruciatingly painful and difficult. Next year, ’21-22, we’re going to hopefully be starting our climb back.
“And then ’22-23, the third year, we’re hopefully going to be at least getting back to where we were, if maybe not rebounding even stronger because we are operating more efficiently. … So I’m really optimistic about the third year from now and anxious to see what that looks like.”
Three years? Really? I believe I know what it will resemble if it takes three years.
There won’t be a Conference USA.
Let’s hope Selig is wrong.