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ASU’s Ray Anderson addresses Pac-12 postponement, potential of season

Arizona State athletic director and VP for university athletics Ray Anderson (Matt Bertram/Arizona Sports)

On Tuesday, Pac-12 university presidents voted to postpone the sports calendar due to the coronavirus.

The fall schedule will be delayed until at least the spring, depending on how much of a threat the pandemic is and how much it has been contained.

Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson, football coach Herm Edwards and ASU health services and counseling services associate vice president Dr. Aaron Krasnow spoke on a Zoom call with media Tuesday to discuss the postponement.

Here are some important questions they addressed during the call:

Why was the season postponed now?

On July 31, the Pac-12 released its football schedule. Less than two weeks later, conference leaders made the decision to postpone the season. What changed over that time frame?

The primary newer concern is myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that has been found in some coronavirus patients and could lead to long-term health complications, even in young people and athletes.

Krasnow said there has been knowledge of cardiac risk for a couple months, but there’s been a recent increase in completed studies that found evidence of the risk of “more significant challenges …. particularly people who are exerting themselves at high levels most of the time.”

Anderson and Edwards said that even for athletes who were willing to sign a waiver, it didn’t take enough off the conscience of the leaders of the athletic departments. It was still their responsibility to make sure they were safe, Anderson said, and shared a story about his dad dying after going into cardiac arrest at the age of 31 when Anderson was 9 years old.

“When I heard about this myocarditis and the fact it’s an inflammation of the heart disease that can do the equivalent of hardening your arteries and making your ability to pump blood less and put you at risk, just the thought of six or seven or eight years from now, one of our student athletes would fall over like that – and while under our care, we didn’t do everything we could to prevent him or her from being in that situation – that affected me,” he said. “This stuff is real.”

As of Tuesday evening, the Pac-12 and Big 10 had postponed the season while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 still planned to play.

Anderson said the Pac-12 took advice from their own medical board and wouldn’t be swayed by another conference making an opposing decision.

“We have a different approach to this here … and we don’t make apologies for it,” he said.

How can the season take place?

The NCAA, Pac-12 and ASU is hopeful that the season will take place.

They hope to push fall sports back and begin them later in the 2020-21 school year. However, they may have to shorten the seasons in order to schedule fall 2021 sports at the normal time.

The conference will more or less be on a wait-and-see basis dictated by the status of the virus and what safety precautions the conference and universities can plan in advance. Additionally, weather and travel will play a factor, considering which areas are too snowy for sports that require temperate weather.

While Anderson would not say he expects the seasons to be shortened, he did speak at length about the possibility.

“The thought of two full seasons in one calendar year for 18- to 22-year-olds, asking them to do that may be health and safety-wise not the wisest thing to do. So we’ll have to really, in terms of football, make sure we’re looking at that,” Anderson said.

“If we protect them from the virus, and then expose them to the risk of too many games and too many practices … then what have we done?”

The potential arises for players who had not planned on redshirting to do so. The entire ASU swimming and diving team will redshirt the season, and was able to do it due to the long September-through-March scheduling, the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament this past spring and the individual nature of the sport.

“That’s a unique situation,” Anderson said. “That being said, will there be some student-athletes who determine, ‘You know given the shortened season, I might want to redshirt?’ We will have those conversations for sure for any student-athlete and coach that wants to.”

In football specifically, Edwards sees the possibility of some players redshirting to prepare for the NFL Draft, comparing it to how top prospects often skip bowl games. While some high-level players may choose to do so, but others may use the season to help their draft stock.

The conference said it will ask the NCAA to grant an extra year of eligibility to those who opt-out of the season, according to the Associated Press.

How will ASU’s financial situation work without football?

ASU athletics will be hit hard without football, and potentially basketball if that too is dramatically delayed.

Football brought in $39 million in revenue in 2018-19, almost 65% of the revenue from all teams combined, according to the Department of Education. Men’s basketball recorded $10.6 million in revenue, about 17.5%.

Anderson said ASU will do “everything in our power” to make sure sports teams aren’t eliminated due to the loss of football and men’s basketball money.

“We got challenges financially, but it’s up to us to figure a way to deal with those problems through additional fundraising, revenue creation, whatever we need to do to make sure that we keep sports,” he said.

ASU has a couple of routes to go about retaining some.

First, it is hoping season ticket holders are willing to allow the department to keep the money it has paid and use it as credit for future sporting events, or even donate it to the department during what Anderson acknowledged will be “revenue shortfalls coming up.”

The department will have to get creative with vendors and other sponsors and find ways to offer “additional inventory and options,” perhaps outside the sporting events themselves.

Additionally, the Pac-12 is considering options to offer financing to universities by allowing them to take an advance on media rights money, Anderson said.

He said ASU is unsure if it will use this financing.

“It appears to be a very likely opportunity for the Pac-12 to create some bridge financing or line of credit capacity if we wanted to take advantage of it,” Anderson said. “We haven’t made a determination of that here, yet.”

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