With the NCAA Division I coordination committee scheduled to vote on eligibility relief Monday, Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said he hopes the NCAA decides to grant spring sport student-athletes an extra season.
On Wednesday, Bjork held his first in a series of weekly teleconferences that will run through the current suspension of play due to the coronavirus. He made it clear he’s all for all athletes to get an extra season because of the delay — not just seniors.
“I want to be as liberal as possible, and then it’s going to be up to the program, the coach and the athlete to figure out what’s best for them,” Bjork said.
All Southeastern Conference athletic directors take part in a daily conference call with league staff, and eligibility relief has been a daily topic, Bjork said. Among the questions that remain to be answered are how it will fit into current NCAA rules on scholarship allotments and roster sizes.
“The NCAA council will vote on this on Monday, so we’ve provided input on what all this means, and my perspective hasn’t changed,” Bjork said.
The focus has centered on spring sports, which had the majority of their seasons canceled, Bjork said. Winter sports, such as men’s and women’s basketball and indoor track and field, have waned in those conversations.
Speaking on a teleconference on March 18, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he is in favor of giving spring student-athletes another year to compete.
“On the first read, it’s an appropriate step from my perspective, yet we have to understand the full set of implications,” Sankey said. “I do want to say I don’t think this simply is a senior issue. Everyone in our programs, particularly spring sports, had their seasons disrupted. My encouragement is that we take a broad look at what kind of opportunities we offer going forward.”
No coaching changes
Bjork said he doesn’t plan to make any major coaching changes this spring or summer. With shortened spring seasons due to the pandemic, he didn’t have enough of a sample size to evaluate the teams.
“We don’t anticipate changes or anything radical,” Bjork said. “We need to get through this together, and I believe we have great leaders and we want to support them and let’s get back on the fields and courts and tracks in 2020-21.
“If I was here longer, then maybe I’d have more time to evaluate a sort of full body of work. But let’s just take our spring sports, only seeing a third of the season, it’s hard to do a full assessment of the performance piece.”
Football faces mini-camp future
With the conference already canceling spring football games across the country and suspending practices until at least April 15, Bjork said he envisions spring drills turning into an NFL-like mini-camp held this summer.
“Assuming that we’re able to get back together physically, I believe there needs to be some acclimation period in May or June or July or whenever,” Bjork said. “It doesn’t need to be a full-on spring practice.”
In Bjork’s vision, the acclimation period would consist of very limited contact with players allowed to wear helmets but not other pads.
A&M’s coaching staff is currently sending players workout instructions they can perform at home.
“We can monitor those workouts, meaning we can get reports back form the student-athletes,” Bjork said. “We’re just being proactive and making sure that our strength coaches are keeping a close eye on the health and safety of our student-athletes.”
NOTES — Bjork said each week A&M is taking a “census” of the locations of its student-athletes. As of last week, 265 student-athletes were still living in College Station, but Bjork said that number is likely to have decreased since the last poll. ... With Brazos County under a shelter-in-place order until April 7, the athletic department has deemed personnel in sports medicine, nutrition, facility maintenance and information technology as essential and allowing them to work on site. ... The R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center has provided an average of 125 to 140 meals per day since March 16, Bjork said.