One day after UA president Robert C. Robbins expressed concern about the viability of college football this fall, Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke clarified his department’s stance on the season, which is in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Heeke has been working with other athletic directors in the Pac-12, which is working with other conferences across the country, “to bring consistency to a restart of football,” Heeke said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
“We certainly continue to explore all options regarding football for next year,” Heeke said. “Everything’s on the table as far as how we would restart it.
“It’s important for us to restart football, and we want to do that in the appropriate manner. We want to follow the science and be able to assure a safe and good environment for our student-athletes, for our staff and coaches, as well as for fans. So those will dictate how and when we re-engage.
“We’re all working very hard to find solutions so we can play football. That’s our goal.”
Robbins told “The Buckmaster Show” Wednesday that he’s “really concerned about whether we’re going to be playing football in the fall. … My sense is, right now, I just don’t see that happening.”
Robbins is a huge supporter of the football program but conceded: “As much as I want it, it just seems as though if we do play any football in the fall, it’s going to be delayed.”
Although Robbins seemed skeptical about the 2020 season, he acknowledged that the UA is awaiting guidance from decision-makers at the Pac-12 and national levels.
“We just don’t have any answers right now,” Robbins said.
Athletic departments would suffer major financial repercussions if the football season were canceled. USA Today estimated that the 50-plus public schools in the Power 5 conferences – including Arizona – would stand to lose more than $78 million apiece. That money helps to support other sports that don’t generate positive revenue.
Heeke said the working groups attacking the football issue have multiple models and are operating on a sliding scale. They also are factoring in the time it would take for players to prepare for the rigors of a season. Teams typically practice for about four weeks before the season opener but usually have several weeks of on-campus conditioning workouts leading up to that.
The UA campus has been closed since mid-March, although Robbins said the current plan is for students to return in late August for the start of the fall semester. Classes are supposed to begin on Aug. 24.
‘A difficult time’
Heeke said he is taking a pay cut, per the university-wide directive issued last Friday. With an annual salary greater than $200,000, Heeke would be subject to a temporary reduction of 20%. “It’s a difficult time,” he said. “We’ve gotta make payroll for our university.”
Asked whether football coach Kevin Sumlin and basketball coach Sean Miller also would be subject to pay cuts, Heeke said several department contracts “require a different process to go through, and we continue to do that.”
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