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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga A.D. Mike Roth remains optimistic despite cloudy crystal ball

UPDATED: Wed., April 29, 2020

Gonzaga University athletic director Mike Roth speaks to the media shortly after NCAA officials announced the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament  during a news conference Thursday, March 12, 2020, at Gonzaga University. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga University athletic director Mike Roth speaks to the media shortly after NCAA officials announced the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament during a news conference Thursday, March 12, 2020, at Gonzaga University. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth covered a variety of topics Wednesday, including his hope that sports return this fall and his take on athletes’ name, image and likeness (NIL) rights.

The first steps toward fall sports taking place would be the return of face-to-face instruction on campuses and football starting up on time, Roth said during a 90-minute GU Town Hall Webinar. He acknowledged there are so many what-ifs with the coronavirus pandemic that it’s essentially impossible to make firm plans.

“I’ve told people if I had a crystal ball right now, my crystal ball would look like a bowling ball,” Roth said. “I can’t see in it at all.”

If football is delayed, other falls sports figure to be delayed, too, Roth said. That, in turn, would impact the start of the men’s and women’s basketball seasons.

Roth isn’t a fan of playing games without fans. He hopes restrictions ease to the point that crowds are allowed at venues, but that’s another unknown.

“Gene Smith (A.D. at Ohio State) made a comment, ‘If it’s not safe for our fans to come to games, how would it be safe for our student-athletes to play games?’ ” Roth said. “Not everybody agrees with that sentiment, but I think there’s some sound logic to it.”

Roth worries about the impact travel restrictions could have on international athletes returning if Gonzaga reopens for fall semester.

“Some of our student-athletes from other countries went home, and rightfully so,” he said, “but now our concern is getting them back.”

Roth said he doesn’t anticipate having to cut or reduce sports programs.

Asked if administrators and/or coaches are taking a salary cut, Roth said because GU is a private institution he wouldn’t share information publicly, “but trust me in that we are all doing the right things.”

The NCAA’s Board of Governors on Wednesday approved guidelines allowing athletes to profit from things such as endorsements, autographs, personal appearances and social media influence. Numerous details still need to be finalized, but a formal vote is expected in January. If passed, NIL rights would begin in the 2021-22 academic year.

“I’m all on board with us doing NIL,” Roth said. “I don’t personally agree with the format that they’re coming with because what they’re saying is student-athletes can go cut their own deals, but schools can’t be involved with it, schools can’t help them and schools can’t make it part of the recruiting process.

“That frustrates me, to be quite honest, because we already have a problem within the NCAA with schools and individuals not willing to follow the rules. … My fear is with the restrictions. I would like to see them give more freedoms because the restrictions they’re putting on is just another opportunity for schools willing to cheat to cheat.”

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