It was a break the University Titans did not want to take.
After a tough 0-3 start to the abbreviated Greater Spokane League football season, U-Hi was sidelined by COVID-19 issues that put them into a two-week time out.
“It was especially tough because we found out just before our game with Gonzaga Prep,” first-year athletic director Brandon Deyarmin said. “There was a lot of disappointment – that was a tough pill for them to swallow.”
Pandemic protocol wiped out the game with G-Prep and last week’s game with Mt. Spokane.
The Titans were cleared to return to the field Wednesday, and rival Central Valley graciously agreed to push the annual Greasy Pig game to Saturday afternoon.
“We asked them to do that and they agreed,” Deyarmin said. “We wanted to get our kids an extra day of practice before we play the game.”
The decision to accommodate the extra practice time was easy, Central Valley athletic director Robin Barnhart said.
“You know what, that could be any of us in that situation,” she said. “I think our coaches have all done a great job of taking care of our kids. Something like this could happen to any of us.”
There are a lot of new twists on the job this year, she admitted.
Things like tracking athletes temperatures. Or figuring the capacity of the school football stadium in order to determine how many people constitute 25%.
“I never in my life thought that would be part of my job description,” she said.
It’s been that kind of a first year for Deyarmin, who returned to U-Hi after long-time athletic director Ken VanSickle retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
Deyarmin coached the Titans in soccer before shifting to Central Valley to coach the Bears.
You could call the 2020-21 school year a crash course. It’s the year when all things high school athletics crashed.
Most athletic directors in Washington state have drawn up more schedules for more sports than they care to count. Each one torn up and tossed in a waste bin while another got drawn up.
“That all started pretty early on, back when it looked like we might be able to have one fall sport, cross country,” Deyarmin said. “It’s all changed. And changed again.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge, he said, has been making sure he keeps track of all COVID-related information he gets daily from each of his coaches, from temperature checks to participation records.
Each coach puts their information in a sealable plastic bag and turns it in. The athletic director coordinates between coaches, athletic trainers, administrators and the Spokane Regional Health District – keeping documentation up to date as well as making sure everyone is apprised on what the appropriate protocols are.
And it all was needed when the football team went into COVID protocol.
“I was surprised at how deep it all went as we went through all of our contact tracing,” Deyarmin said. “There were a lot – more than I expected. Making sure we stay on top of all that information has been the biggest challenge, and I’m glad we had it.”
The high school football landscape has changed since the last time the Titans played a game.
For the first time this season the football team will play in front of friends and family.
“I’ve been working it all out,” he said. “We can seat 3,500 in our stadium, so we can have 25% of capacity at the game. We’re probably going to do a 60/40 split with CV.
“I know everyone is anxious to get the student body out there to be part of this, but we can’t do that yet. So it will just be friends and family for now.”
Both high schools are working off pass lists for friends and family to attend home games. For the first and, hopefully, only time in school history the Greasy Pig game will be an RSVP affair.
Considering how enthusiastic fans are whenever Central Valley and University face each other, this year’s Greasy Pig game may well be just a bit less, well, greasy.
Deyarmin said he is thankful for the way fellow athletic directors, past and present, have reached out and helped the newcomer during the pandemic.
VanSickle is now the Greater Spokane League administrator and is only a phone call away, he said. And Deyarmin worked with Barnhart while he was at Central Valley and credits her for taking his calls, whenever they happen.
And former Central Valley athletic director Butch Walter and U-Hi athletic director Bill Ames have pitched in with lots of help.
“The entire group of ADs in the GSL have been fantastic and so helpful,” Deyarmin said. “We’ve had a texting group that helps us all stay in touch. That’s been a big help. We haven’t had to text quite as much now that we are finally back and playing, but being able to help each other and stay in touch with one another has really been a big help.”
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