BOISE — What happens with spring football? If spring athletes get an extra year of eligibility back, what do the rosters look like? How does this all impact the athletics department financially? What happens if this lingers into the fall?
There are plenty of questions, and to this point, still not a lot of answers.
Boise State athletics director Curt Apsey spoke with reporters Thursday for the first time since college athletics were essentially shut down last week to try and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And while the impact on Boise State will be substantial, there’s still more unknowns than facts.
“I have the same questions as you do,” Apsey admitted on a conference call.
The NCAA canceled all winter and spring championships late last week, and the Mountain West followed suit by canceling the rest of the spring sports seasons. Boise State suspended spring football practice on Monday, but it’s unknown when and if it will get to resume.
Apsey and his team have spent the last week trying to get a handle on the many layers of this. They’ve sent athletes home for spring break and encouraged many of them to stay home now that Boise State moved to online classes for the rest of the semester.
The athletic department will officially be shut down next week during spring break, and what is allowable in terms of workouts and team meetings in the weeks to follow still has to be decided upon.
“This is not in the AD handbook,” Apsey said. “It’s certainly not something I’ve experienced before, that’s for sure. The main focus the entire time has been the welfare of our student-athletes, and that hasn’t changed for me.”
Apsey confirmed “a few” athletes have been tested for the coronavirus, but said “up to this point, all negative.” He said the number of athletes tested “hasn’t been a big number.”
The spring football game has yet to be canceled, but it’s almost impossible to see it continuing as scheduled on April 11 given the team won’t be practicing anytime soon. Apsey said there have been discussions about whether teams could practice in the summer or add practices to fall camp, but nothing had been decided.
The financial impact of spring sports being canceled appears to be small. While Boise State loses ticket revenue from home sporting events like baseball and softball, it also saves travel costs and plane flights that no longer will be needed for away games.
“Financially, at least for the rest of the academic year, there’s not a huge change just due to how much we bring in in the spring versus how much we spend,” Apsey said.
The Broncos will, however, lose out on a potential six-figure payday from the NCAA Tournament being canceled. The San Diego State and Utah State men’s teams would have earned shares for advancing that are divided among all the teams in the league.
It took Boise State a full week to make Apsey available to the media. A few coaches have released statements, but until Thursday nobody from the athletic department — including coaches and current players — have spoken publicly or taken questions. Part of the delay was because how quickly things continued to evolve.
“It changes every day,” Apsey said. “A week ago we’re sitting with our staff talking about how we we’re going to hold an athletic event with no fans in the stands, and literally before we can press send, spring sports got canceled and we didn’t have to press send. That’s an example of how quickly this is changing.”
One of the worst parts of the whole deal was the sudden end to the season. The women’s basketball team should be playing in the NCAA Tournament this week, but instead found out on social media that the season was over. The baseball and softball teams and the other spring sports also had abrupt ends to their seasons, with no ‘Senior Day’ or final practice or game.
And the uncertain futures, especially for the seniors, has just made things worse.
“I feel horrible for all those kids that lost opportunities,” Apsey said. “As you can imagine, some are devastated, some are wondering what’s going on. Obviously, the future has lots of questions in it and for the most part I think everyone has handled it in a great way and understanding at the end of the day what’s really important.”
The NCAA has already said it intends to grant athletes from spring sports another year of eligibility. How that works, and what it means for scholarship limits and roster sizes remains to be seen.
“None of that has been decided yet,” Apsey said. “You have to take all that into consideration. If kids are given a year back, how do you handle that from a scholarship standpoint? How many kids will actually take advantage of that? How will it affect recruits coming in?
“Will it be a rule that’s across the NCAA in every school or will institutions make their own choices? None of that has been decided. And there’s a sense of urgency where these decisions need to be made fairly quickly because we’ve only got four to six weeks left in the spring season. I know the NCAA is working on that, but nothing official has come out.”
Changes are certainly coming. Whether that goes as far as letting seniors from winter sports come back for another year remains to be seen.
“There’s certainly going to need to be some leniency from the NCAA, which they are very are of,” Apsey said. “There’s just going to have to be some changes made and we’ll have to do business a different way next year, however that looks like.”
As for whether the right decision was made to cancel the spring sports seasons instead of just suspend them, Apsey said, “It was easy to question that 10 days ago, but I think the answer is pretty easy now.”
Boise State is expected to make other coaches including baseball coach Gary Van Tol and men’s basketball coach Leon Rice available to the media in the coming days. Football coach Bryan Harsin hasn’t spoken since following the first spring practice on March 6, before any postponements and cancellations took place.