For 48 hours, from Wednesday afternoon when he was in Nashville expecting to watch his men’s basketball team play the next morning until Friday afternoon, as an all-day round of crisis management meetings and some arm-around-the-shoulder psychology concluded, University of Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne has been caught in a torrent of information, some of it, unprecedented.
Despite that, Byrne was expected to have immediate answers in a landscape that was shifting so rapidly that SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey learned that the NCAA had canceled the College World Series and Women’s College World Series via Twitter.
At the end of the day on Friday, well past 5 p.m., Byrne addresses some of the many issues raised by his department’s part in the national campaign to slow the spread of the coronavirus in an interview with Tidesports.
“Obviously this is one of the most challenging weeks I have ever seen for student-athletes, for our coaches, our staff and our fans. This is a very serious virus that needs to be dealt with and we had to put the safety of everyone in the front of our thoughts.
“But at the same time, it really hits home when you talk with a coach who has suddenly seen his or her season come to an end. I haven’t been able to talk to as many of our student-athletes as I would like because many of them left campus on Friday. The ones I did talk with, you could feel their disappointment but also I was impressed with their understanding of the situation.”
The Southeastern Conference and NCAA have set a ban on athletic activity until April 15, which will give Alabama additional time to plan for the multitude of issues that will arise but Byrne addressed some immediate issues on Friday.
With the postponement of spring football practice, the April 18 date currently set for A-Day would likely be discussed over the coming week, Byrne said.
“We’ve had very little discussion about that because of everything else, but we understand that there is a need to know among our fans. What happens with spring football is going to be a collective discussion, as it has been throughout the week. Every school had ideas but all realized that this (hiatus) was the best decision.
“Timing will be an issue but we have not formally canceled anything at this point while we gather more information.”
Byrne said he “welcomed” the NCAA release on Friday that indicated an extra year of eligibility would be likely for spring sports athletes whose season was truncated.
“We absolutely support that without a doubt,” Byrne said. “There are still issues to be worked out at the NCAA level but we will assist any of our student-athletes who have the ability to return and the desire to continue their career.”
Without indicating if there was any chance that any SEC spring seasons could be salvaged, Byrne did note that Alabama has been scheduled to host SEC Championships in both softball and women’s tennis and that UA would like to see those events in Tuscaloosa as soon as possible.
“Those are both big events for the university and for the city,” Byrne said. “If there is a way we can host those events without having to wait out the full rotation (of sites), we would very much want to do that.”
Byrne concluded that the hectic week had only strengthened his feelings for Alabama.
“I love these kids,” he said. “I love working with our staff, with so many people of different backgrounds. We will get through this and we will be stronger for it.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt