Difficult decisions have become the norm in so many walks of life during the coronavirus pandemic.
University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank and her fellow college presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten Conference made that kind of painful decision Tuesday with the move to cancel fall sports including football, with the hope of playing them in the spring of 2021.
“Of course this is a difficult decision. We have student athletes who spent years training for this year’s competition, and for whom this is something they are deeply involved in, and coaches and staff who are very committed to this,” Chancellor Blank told WTMJ’s John Mercure during our WTMJ Cares Special Roundtable.
But, she and Athletic Director Barry Alvarez felt the move was unavoidable.
“Both myself and our athletic director, Barry Alvarez, believe we didn’t really have a choice,” she explained. “Some of the problems particularly unique to college sports were such that it was just not safe for our student athletes, for us to be running the season right now.”
There were reports that the move was not a unanimous one, with the University of Nebraska’s leadership team saying they were very disappointed in the decision, and that their football team continues “to be ready to play.”
“We had a full and open conversation amongst everyone on the board, which is the whole set of chancellors and presidents. People were at different points in an earlier stage, but at the end of the day, the Big Ten made a decision,” Blank told John.
That decision not only affects hundreds of student-athletes who normally would play their sports in the fall. It also includes numerous layers of the UW community which will sustain a quantifiable monetary loss from a lack of fall football gamedays.
“A real effect on the community when those football Saturdays don’t happen,” Blank admits.
It also will further tax an already-strapped UW budget, which has been dramatically affected by the pandemic.
“Without a fall season, it means not only do we not have any of the ticket revenue that would normally come in, but we’re not likely to have any of the TV revenue as well. That’s going to be a huge impact on the athletic department’s budget,” said Blank. “That doesn’t put them in any different situation than our conferences group. Our housing is taking some hits on all of this. We’ve got a lot of places across campus that are experiencing very sharp revenue losses as a result of the pandemic. We’re working on all of that.”