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The complications of attempting to restart college athletics, including college football, during a pandemic are many and powerfully layered.
Wisconsin Deputy Athletic Director Chris McIntosh says that they are preparing for numerous possibilities of how to handle college sports, including the recently-discussed option of moving the fall tradition of college football to the spring semester in 2021.
However, as he told WTMJ’s Greg Matzek during Tuesday’s WTMJ Cares Town Hall, “It’s a last resort by a long shot.”
“We’ve tried to prepare for just about any scenario that we can imagine, but we’ve stopped short of any of them. Spring football is (one) of those, but it hasn’t been our priority. Our priority is to make sure our student athletes, fans, coaches are safe for kickoff on Labor Day weekend.”
Saturday, September 4 is supposed to bring the Wisconsin Badgers to Madison for the 2020 season opener. It’s also supposed to be the largest event held on campus after a return to school which McIntosh says is the current goal for the university’s efforts.
“Chancellor Blank, as recently as yesterday, shared a statement where all the efforts of the university are to bring the students back to campus in the fall,” he said.
“The offerings might be different. There might be hybrid educational opportunities. All the work…is to bring thousands and thousands of students back to Madison. We expect our student-athletes will be part of those students.”
And that means all student athletes, not just football players. That means that numerous sports are in play for return, with the need for successful gender equity in opportunity given to student-athletes to participate.
“That’s our goal,” McIntosh shared. “When it’s appropriate to bring our student-athletes back to campus, (over) 800 student athletes, it’s our core mission to provide opportunity.”
McIntosh says that under current budgets, he does not believe the loss of revenue UW has sustained will mean the elimination of any sports.
“We’re doing everything we can to avoid having to face a decision like that at Wisconsin. We’ve got a strong partnership on campus,” he said.
“We’ve not had discussions about eliminating any programs. Our priority is to preserve the broad-based opportunity we’ve come to enjoy. That’s where our work is at.”
McIntosh did admit, however, there is a possibility that they may need to play games without fans, and that it is an option to consider.
“Is football possible without fans? It is. Many of us played football for many, many years…with not many fans.”