The COVID-19 pandemic has left a mark on the ACU sports community, but the Athletic Department is ready to take the challenge head on.
The NCAA came to the decision to approve an extra year of eligibility for spring athletes, Monday.
“First of all, I’m pleased the NCAA made that decision,” said Allen Ward, director of athletics. “I think it’s in the best interest of our student-athletes, and it gives them the opportunity to come back and finish their careers.”
When asked about how student-athletes’ scholarships could be impacted, Ward said he hopes to have a plan available in “four-to-eight weeks.”
“I’m confident we’re going to come up with a plan that will allow those who want to come back to finish out their eligibility,” Ward said. “We’re still working through those details.”
With the cancellation of spring sports, the NCAA has slashed 70 percent of ACU athletics’ funding. It will be a loss of $600,000 over a two-year period; $450,000 will be lost in 2020 and $150,000 in 2021.
“We have our challenges in front of us,” Ward said. “We will take our reduction from the NCAA just like every other institution. We’re looking at our budget right now on how we’re going to mitigate those losses.”
Each Southland Conference team is being cut a specific amount during the pandemic, said Ward. Despite the 70 percent funding cut, Ward quickly shot down the idea of canceling a sport for an extended period of time.
“I think that would be one of the worst-case scenarios on the sports,” Ward said. “It’s not my intent to drop any sports, and I don’t think we’re in that position.”
During this pandemic, head coaches have been forced to coach from their homes while their players are home. Ward said they’ve done a phenomenal job adjusting.
“I’ve got a really good group of coaches that are incredibly smart and see the big picture,” Ward said. “They’re a really great fit for ACU, and they know we’re going to face some challenges, but they’ve been really positive during this time.”
While the football season is just over four months away, it’s still unknown how much of an impact the coronavirus will have.
“I know there’s so much that can happen between now and then,” Ward said. “I’m just trying to stay positive and hope that we’re all back to sense of normalcy then we are right now.”
The Southland Conference is also taking its necessary precautions if fall sports are impacted. However, they believe it’s premature to make any decisions.
“We are certainly aware that those discussions are taking place within certain conferences,” Ward said. “However, we don’t believe like we’re in a place where we need to make any decisions.”
Despite the challenges the Athletic Department is facing, Ward praised all their efforts during this unpredictable time in history.
“I am incredibly blessed to have an incredible staff,” Ward said. “That’s why I’m confident we’re going to come out of this. I want to thank them for all they do and how they’re working right now.”