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Tuesday, May 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Colleges, and all sports, move in fits and starts toward returning to competition

Fans cheer as Washington State Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon heads to the locker room during Washington State’s win over New Mexico State in 2019. (Tyler Tjomsland / Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Fans cheer as Washington State Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon heads to the locker room during Washington State’s win over New Mexico State in 2019. (Tyler Tjomsland / Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Ever watch one of those nature shows that has video of a bear emerging from its winter slumber? That came to mind this morning as we read story after story of sports in this country moving toward re-starting. A lot of stretching, a lot of grunts and not a lot of movement.

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• The NCAA announced yesterday its member schools could return to their athletic facilities for voluntary activities in football and basketball as of June 1. With caveats. Lots and lots of caveats. It may happen in, day, Utah, but not in Oregon. In Idaho and not California. In Nevada and not Washington.

The NCAA has spoken, but schools, especially state schools, are at the mercy, if you will, of their state government. The decision-makers in these scenarios are in the state capital, not Indianapolis.

Theo Lawson examined the differing effects the NCAA decision would have on just the schools in this area, with the University of Idaho under a different set of rules than the school less than 10 miles down the road, Washington State. Similar, but different. And dealing with a different time frame.

The Pac-12 has said all along it would try to keep some semblance of continuity among its member schools, but that seems to be a vain hope. The two other major conferences that touch out area, the Big Sky and the WCC, have moved toward a more independent model. If, say, Utah has opened the door to just about any activity and Washington is still not letting folks indoors to workout, then Weber State is going to be doing more with its athletes than Eastern Washington.

Heck, the differences are even going to be magnified within a state. Whitman County, home of Washington State, is already under Gov. Jay Inslee’s Phase 2 guidelines. Those rules are looser than what Gonzaga and Eastern have to work under, the Phase 1 protocols (as of this morning – it could change by the weekend).

As we pull within 10 days of June 1, the date the NCAA has designated “opening day,” we see a lot of preparation, a lot of talk and little clarity.

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your summer.

• It’s starting to become a consensus. First CBS Sports anointed the Gonzaga Bulldogs the top team in the land, 2020-21 basketball season variety. USA Today put them there as well. Now ESPN has joined the fray.

The Zags moved to the top of ESPN’s preseason top 25 yesterday, as the network’s Jeff Borzello jumped them ahead of Villanova, which recently found out one of its stars is staying in the NBA draft.

The group think has coalesced around the idea Mark Few will not be losing any of his three early entry players: Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev. But, as the English say, there is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.

All three could return to Gonzaga. Or not. If they do, the Zags’ lineup is deep, experienced – except at the point – and talented. If Southern Illinois grad transfer Aaron Cook can team with freshman Jalen Suggs to  carry the load at point guard, than GU is more than deserving of the accolades sent its way this spring.

•••

WSU: The football commitments have been rolling in recently, with another class of 2021 defensive end announcing yesterday. A couple of things set Andrew Edson apart, however. He’s from Mt. Si High in Snoqualmie, which makes him an in-state recruit, and he had his first offer from the Washington State staff Wednesday as well. Theo has more in this story. … Both Washington and Washington State are going to let spring sport athletes return for another year. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the UC system, reliant on tuition from on-campus students, will not follow the lead of California’s state college system. It will open in the fall with students, including athletes, on campus. … A defensive back who signed with Oregon in December, was arrested yesterday and charge with eight criminal counts related to a shooting. Not good. Neither is the news, that doesn’t seem to have been reported but was announced by the school yesterday, the Ducks cut ties with the player in February. … Ohio State doesn't want to flip sites in the football series with Oregon. … The quarterback battle at Utah was put on hold along with everything else. … The conference needs new UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond to lead the Bruins to success. … When Arizona State and UNLV meet in Las Vegas, it will be at the Raiders’ new stadium.

Gonzaga: Jim Meehan delves into the Zags’ rankings in this story.

Golf: Most professional golf shut down during the pandemic and is not yet up and running. Except in Arizona. The Cactus and the Outlaw Tour continued and each had a player with local ties competing. Jim spoke with Sophie Hausmann, the former Idaho golfer, and Derek Bayley, the Rathdrum native who played at WSU, about their recent experience in the desert.

Chiefs: Ty Smith has been the WHL’s best defenseman for the past two years. How do we know? For the second consecutive season, the league said so, giving Smith its Defenseman of the Year award.

Seahawks: The Hawks are trying to build some veteran depth at running back. … No matter what happens the rest of the offseason, Seattle needs Bruce Irvin to have a great season. … It’s official. Geno Smith is back.

•••       

• The sun is shining. That’s it. That’s the postscript. Until later …

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