As the sport’s world continues to navigate this tricky time, the Wildcats are doing their best to stay connected amidst the lingering questions about this year’s seasons.
However, Weber State Athletic’s “Week with the Wildcats” helped address some of these concerns.
The week saw a series of Zoom conversations hosted by Weber State Athletic’s Communication Director Paul Grua in which he spoke with Wildcat coaches and players about some of the questions surrounding around Weber State athletics and in the grander sports world.
The week kicked off with Wildcat’s Athletic Director, Tim Crompton. He discussed the sports climate right now and the uncertainty that has shrouded athletics since the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s a unique first day of fall semester, more unique than any first day of school I’ve ever been involved with for sure,” Crompton said. “We don’t have any games currently or competitions that we would normally be playing right now, so we don’t have that same excitement, so we’ll try and create excitement in a different way.”
Some of the excitement comes from many of the student athletes who are back on campus and continuing their practices and workouts, which are allowed by the NCAA.
However, since the delay of fall sports until spring, the sports world has had to question if it’s feasible to run two seasons back-to-back.
“It seems to be the billion dollar question, and I don’t think they have a really good model for that right now. I’ve seen a couple of them where there’s eight-game spring season, which could be a seven plus one or six plus two with non-conference games,” Crompton said.
He also factored in the guidelines and rules in place to help keep the student athletes safe and out of harm’s way. The fall sports athletes are still preparing, just in a different time of year than usual.
“Really, in essence, we’ve flipped what we’re doing in the fall and what we’re doing in the spring, so we’re not doing anything different, we’re just doing it at a different time,” Crompton said.
The NCAA basketball tournament is a moneymaker for universities, and it allows for schools to bring in revenue that helps student athletes. Crompton noted the importance of the tournament taking place this upcoming season.
“That’s on the forefront of our minds, in terms of what does that look like. The conference season is when we begin play in January, or if there’s non-conference games how do we do that safely,” Crompton said.
He discussed how fall sports teams have been able to deal with the changes a bit better than in the spring when the rug was pulled out from under them without warning. The fall teams have been expecting changes and are preparing in the best and safest ways possible.
“After the initial announcement they have now moved past that and are now in the mindset of what do we need to do to be prepared, what do we need to do to be great academically, and what do we need to do to make sure we stay mentally healthy,” Crompton said.
The next day’s session was with Wildcat Football’s Head Coach, Jay Hill, and senior wide receiver, Rashid Shaheed, who joined and discussed a variety of topics concerning the football season, which has been postponed until the spring.
“Well, we’re still at it hard, the players have got out on the field, there’s some things with the new NCAA rules that allowed us to go out there and throw the ball around and do some individual drills, and keeping the players in shape with working out and running and doing all those things,” Hill said.
Shaheed reiterated the team is fully embracing a positive attitude which is being instilled by the coaches.
“It’s tough, life without football right now is not something any of are use to, but we got to adjust and deal with what’s a hand, and so far I think we’ve done a great job with no football right now,” Shaheed said. “Like coach said, we just got to stay positive through this. There’s not much we can do other than go out and work every chance we get.”
With dates tentatively scheduled, all the players and coaches can do is work hard each day.
“Nobody knows how to exactly prepare or set your schedule moving forward, the only thing I do know is you can do your best with what you’ve been given, and right now we can work out, and when they let us play, be ready to go,” Hill said.
Another tough question the NCAA was left having to answer was how eligibility would work with such a different schedule than the usual one, the solution being the athletes get the year back without having played.
“I think it’s the only way the NCAA could have done it in a fair way because if some players got to play and others didn’t, it wouldn’t be fair to take some of the players eligibility and not others. If you only get to play three games and the season’s cut short how do you deal with that, I think what the NCAA did was the best decision for everybody,” Hill said.
Shaheed shared his perspective as a student athlete.
“I think it’s cool and a good opportunity for some guys to get extra experience, and time on the field, it’s definitely a good idea,” Shaheed said.
In late July, the Wildcats were voted No. 1 in the preseason Big Sky poll by the coaches and media, for the first time ever.
“Well this may be the best team we’ve ever had and we got to go prove that on the field,” Hill said.
Hill is not a big proponent of preseason poll’s, as he talked about the only thing that matters is where you end up at the end of the season.
“Hopefully this gets us excited about what we’re working towards and we finish the end of the year ranked No. 1 instead of just preseason ranked No. 1,” Hill said.
With student athletes and coaches hard at work in practices and workouts, all Wildcat fans can do now is hope for the start of sports, when they are currently scheduled to begin.