Woodward says LSU’s focus is fall sports in wake of coronavirus spread

Thoughts of LSU resuming any sport before the start of football season seems highly unlikely because of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus.

LSU athletics director Scott Woodward said in a Monday media teleconference that the focus going forward is the school’s fall sports, led by football.

“It is going to be how to we get up and prepare for our fall sports, whether that’s allowing more practices or doing things differently by sport,” Woodward said. “That is in flux and that is being discussed both at the NCAA and SEC level.”

The SEC has already said no sporting events would resume until April 15 at the earliest, but the situation has been so fluid it’s highly unlikely that will happen.

Woodward said while all students have been ordered to go home, there are 120 plus student-athletes including many foreigners who will continue to be housed and fed on campus. He also said the number will likely be reduced daily.

“The essential needs for these student-athletes will be taken care of,” Woodward said, “whether that’s feeding them in the cafeteria or in the near future going to a to-go bag. We’ll have our training room open so they can get medical care. And for now, we’re going to have our academic center open, but I’m sure that will change even as we speak.”

Woodward also said he’s encouraging everyone in the athletic department to do as much work at home and not come to the office if possible.

Woodward said he expects the SEC to announce in the next few days that it is officially cancelling its baseball and softball tournaments. The NCAA already announced late last week it was cancelling all remaining winter and spring sports national championship events.

“I can assure you right now from my standpoint and the league’s standpoint that we’re always going to err on the side of overreaction instead of under reaction,” Woodward said. “Because we’re dealing with life or death.”

Woodward said dealing with the financial impact of loss revenue is something he’s put on the back burner.

“Right now, the financial impact is not our concern,” Woodward said. “We’re focused entirely on the health and safety of our community and our student-athletes right now.”

Woodward said LSU “will be fair” in how the school will refund any tickets bought for cancelled events.

“That is being formulated,” Woodward said. “But just bear with us as far as timing goes. A lot of things are being interrupted right now and there’s a lot of people doing a lot of different things. For the seasons that have been cancelled, we will refund your tickets.”

Woodward also said he is working to regain a year of eligibility (as the NCAA has already indicated) for all spring sports athletes, from freshmen to seniors. He added doing the same thing for winter sports athletes who didn’t complete their seasons, such as men’s and women’s basketball and gymnastics, will be an ongoing discussion with the SEC and the NCAA.

Also, Woodward said coaches in all sports are still allowed to recruit by phone or text messages.

He met with coaches in all of LSU sports last Friday and termed them “awesome.”

“It was a rewarding meeting to see how concerned they were about their student-athletes,” Woodward said. “Our coaches are staying in touch with our student athletes.”

Woodward said the possibility of the spread of coronavirus is something he and other athletic department administrators had discussed since it began impacting sporting events overseas.

“When it hit the U.S., we knew it was a matter of time that we were going to have to make hard decisions,” he said. “What and how fast those hard decisions were made were basically left up to the public health departments and our government. The NCAA led the charge on that and we followed suit.”

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Ron Higgins

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