Washington football coach Jimmy Lake spoke to the media on Friday for the first time since the Pac-12 Conference announced the postponement of the fall sports season.
Agreeing with the decision to postpone the season, Lake applauded the UW medical staff and the Pac-12 Conference for putting the safety of its athletes first.
“Right now there’s way (more) questions than answers,” Lake said. “I don’t want our team to be guinea pigs, I don’t want our staff to be guinea pigs. If things are not going to be safe, we need to err on the side of caution. I know that is what our medical advisor group did for the Pac-12. I am just extremely grateful that we have a bunch of smart, right people that can navigate us through this.
“I know that when the time is right they will tell us we can play.”
Unlike the SEC, Big-12, and ACC conferences that are still planning on pushing ahead with their fall sports seasons, the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences pulled the plug on the season early.
Although the Pac-12 wasn’t scheduled to begin its season until late September, the looming risk of playing during a pandemic created unrest for all of those involved, including UW Associate Athletic Director for Health & Wellness Rob Scheidegger.
“When we started this whole process out, the Pac-12 Conference, the University of Washington, and our athletic department have said that we want to put the health and safety of our student athletes at the front of every decision that we make,” Scheidegger said. “We are going to continue to do that, and that’s what this decision is all about.”
Scheidegger said that there were three factors that went into the decision. The first being the disease prevalence in cities in which Pac-12 schools are located.
In June, when the UW announced its plans to bring athletes back to campus, the city of Seattle was averaging just over 11 COVID-19 infections per day. Now, the number of daily infections is almost three times as high, with the seven-day running average more than 30 new infections every day.
Second, Scheidegger noted the inconsistencies in testing across the conference as another reason the season could not continue as planned. At the UW, test results are available in less than 24 hours, but that is not the case around the rest of the conference, where some may not know their results for a few days.
“We would really like to see point-of-care testing available at Washington so that we can ensure that no one from coaches, to staff, to student-athletes is bringing this into our footprint due to sports participation,” he said.
Finally, Scheidegger cited unknown complications due to COVID-19 in athletes, especially cardiovascular issues, as a big question mark.
“There’s two things you can do with unknowns,” he said. “We are going to take some time and learn about those things and find those answers or we can ensure that we are not creating an environment with our athletic participation which could cause an increased risk in contracting this virus until we know. Until we have one of those two things we are going to put our student-athletes health and welfare first.”
Potential for a spring season
Although Lake was in agreement with the football season being scrapped, he did not dismiss the idea of football entirely.
“First and foremost we have got to make sure this virus is under control before we talk about a spring season,” Lake said. “We’ve got to make sure we know what this does to our student athletes and our staff long term. We’ve got to make sure we have the testing in place. As soon as all of that is under control we can start with our spring season.”
Scheidegger noted that slowing the disease prevalence, more widely available testing, and further knowledge about COVID-19 complications are three things that must have more certainty before a spring season can be played.
Lake mentioned a shortened, eight-game season as a possibility for the spring, with a delayed 2021 season possibly beginning in October. Lake doesn’t anticipate a normal schedule being played until the fall of 2022.
As for the idea of playing in a bubble, similar to professional sports leagues across the country, Lake was quick to dismiss the idea, citing the size and logistics of college athletics as an impossibility.
Lake announced that redshirt freshman defensive lineman Sama Paama has retired from football for personal reasons. Also walking away from football is long-snapper Luke Lane, who earned his degree and is moving on to pursue a medical degree.
Reach reporter Anthony Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb
Like what you’re reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donating here.