Although the NCAA has granted approval for all athletes to resume voluntary workouts and activities on June 1, plans for University of Vermont teams remain a work in progress.
While UVM expects two-thirds of rising juniors who plan to live off-campus to move into their rental housing in June, according a school survey of 276 respondents, the return to campus for Catamount athletes isn’t happening in the near future.
As the state reopens during the coronavirus pandemic, UVM athletes remain sidelined.
“The situation is just so fluid that it’s hard to make any absolute predictions right now,” said UVM athletic director Jeff Schulman, adding Patrick Gym remains set up as a medical surge facility. “The well-being of our student-athletes and coaches and staff in the community will always be our top priority.
“But at the same we are working on plans and protocols that will allow us to safely resume activity. We do believe we can create a safe environment that adheres to all state and local and campus guidelines.”
Under normal circumstances, the men’s and women’s basketball teams would be the first programs back on campus, returning by the end of June or early July for team workouts and practices. Women’s coach Alisa Kresge, though, is bracing for the potential of a summer without her players.
“They are not going to be reporting back in June and there could be a chance of not this summer at all,” Kresge said. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I’ll see our players this summer.”
With about dozen upperclassmen on his roster, men’s coach John Becker expects his players who live off-campus to “make their way back” in June.
“Get everyone back and see what that looks like, but it’s very much up in the air,” Becker said. “It’s day to day.”
With the loss of 40% of his coaching staff due to UVM suspending 575 temporary positions, a workforce reduction that affected 18 jobs in the athletic department, Becker said there are challenges ahead for his team, the four-time reigning America East regular-season champion. The summer workouts, for example, usually allow for graduate transfers — Northeastern’s Tomas Murphy and Northern Arizona’s Bernie Andre are newcomers — to get up to speed with Becker’s system.
“I worry about keeping the program at the level that we have grown accustomed to,” Becker said. “I’m very concerned about the health of our program and the effects this pandemic is going to have on the broader society but, specifically in my world, the level and quality of the product we put out there.”
Kresge said her players are “bummed out.”
“It’s about finding different ways to motivate and challenge each other,” Kresge said.
The return to activity protocols Schulman said the school is drafting include quarantining for out-of-state athletes, testing, regular screening and monitoring and following social distance guidelines.
“We’d love to be able to have student-athletes on campus and training and working out, but there is still work to do to make sure we can do that in a safe way,” Schulman said. “This season is going to look very different than anything we’ve ever experienced.”
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