LAS VEGAS – Aligning with the school’s decision to move in-person classes to online formats following the spring break, Washington State athletics announced new attendance protocols Wednesday for home competitions that will take effect later this week.
In an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus illness in the state of Washington, WSU home athletic competitions will be restricted to competing student-athletes, coaches, officials, other essential personnel and credential media members, according to a school press release. Families of competing student-athletes will also be allowed to attend.
“We’re going to take it day by day,” WSU athletic director Pat Chun told The Spokesman-Review Wednesday night at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. “The goal is to do restricted games and practices once the semester starts. Although distance learning will be activated for all students, campus is still open. So, based on the fact campus is still open, we want to keep some normal operations. Our goal, hopefully a part of that, is restricted practices as well.”
The new protocols will begin Friday, when WSU’s baseball team hosts California in a 3:05 p.m. Pac-12 opener at Bailey-Brayton Field. The Cougars play the Golden Bears in a three-game series, but don’t return to Pullman until April 3 for a Pac-12 series against USC.
WSU’s football team opens spring practice on March 27 and will stage 15 practices leading up to the Crimson and Gray spring game on April 25. As of Wednesday, Ohio State, Michigan and multiple midmajor schools had canceled their spring games. Baylor, Virginia and Kent State had suspended all team activities.
WSU could consider similar measures soon, but Chun said the spring recess, which begins Monday and lasts until March 20, prolongs the decision-making process.
“Luckily for us because of our calendar, we have a little bit of a buffer,” he said. “Our goal is, ‘Hey, let’s get through this basketball tournament.’ We have some contingent plans relative to what-ifs, but time is our best friend right now, but also our enemy because we’ll have to make some kind of great decisions soon.”
Eleventh-seeded WSU played sixth-seeded Colorado Wednesday night at the Pac-12 Tournament, attended by more than a few thousand fans, though the general public won’t be permitted to attend games from Thursday on.
“I’ve been talking with President Schultz and we are supportive of the strategy to err on the side of caution,” Chun said, “Plus, relative to what you see going on in sports right now, it’s the right decision and it’ll change the environment in the tournament. But compared to what’s going on with COVID-19 in the world, that’s a minimal thing to hopefully try to keep, try to help manage the spread of the illness.”
Concerns about the disease also caused the College Basketball Invitational to cancel its 2020 tournament on Wednesday. The Cougars received an invitation to play in the CBI, which would’ve signified the program’s first postseason appearance since 2012.
“Just the fact they had to change that conversation,” Chun said. “I know it’s just one of the tough things a coach had to communicate.”
WSU is offering refunds to fans who’ve already purchased tickets and recommends calling 1 (800) GO-COUGS or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chun said the athletic department began increasing sanitization efforts last week and will continue to do so, communicating on a daily basis with strength and conditioning, food service and academic service departments.
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