MWC Commissioner: College Athletics Won't Return Until Campuses Reopen
Craig Thompson said there won’t be any sort of athletics activity at the league’s member schools until college campuses are in full operation again.
April 22, 2020
Craig Thompson may have best summed up the current state of college athletics with a single phrase.
“Everybody wants tomorrow’s answers today,” Thompson said.
Yet even during a time when college sports have few answers to a number of questions that continue to mount amid the coronavirus pandemic, there’s one answer that was easy for the Mountain West’s commissioner to provide.
During a two-part, in-house interview with the Mountain West Network this week, Thompson said there won’t be any sort of athletics activity at the league’s member schools until college campuses are in full operation again. Campuses nationwide have been closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak with many schools moving classes online for the remainder of the spring semester, including the University of Wyoming, one of the MW’s 12 member institutions.
As for who will be deciding when campuses open again, Thompson said that will be left to university presidents, medical professionals, health officials and all levels of government.
“Arguably right now there’s maybe 20 to 30 potential states that could have somewhat of a rolling opening, so they may be possibly ready to resume whatever normal is,” Thompson said. “But those who aren’t, it’s going to take a combination of several sources to make the determination of is it safe to reopen and get 30,000 students co-mingling on a campus?”
With all spring sports canceled, the most pressing concern for the MW is whether or not there will be a football season this fall given the significant revenue it produces for conferences nationwide and their member institutions. One of the largest sources of that revenue is the media rights agreement the MW has with CBS and ESPN to televise football and men’s basketball games.
The league is set to enter a new six-year contract with CBS and FOX on July 1, a far more lucrative deal that’s set to triple the amount of money each school is receiving now. That is, as long as the league fulfills its contract obligations.
Deferred or reduced payments if the season is impacted isn’t a topic that’s been discussed yet with the networks, Thompson said. He added it’s too early to know whether each team will be able to play a 12-game schedule if there’s a season at all.
“We just gave CBS, by contractual rights, the first seven picks (for football season), so they’re looking at those games now,” Thompson said. “We’re kind of business as usual with the eye knowing that it may change tomorrow.”