Arizona president Dr. Robert C. Robbins commented on the Eye on the Ball show on KVOI (1030-AM) tonight that the Pac-12’s cancellation of fall sports because of COVID-19 concerns was not influenced by the Big Ten announcing earlier in the day a similar decision.
Robbins pointed out the fact that California and Washington State are going to online instruction only in the fall and that the California schools (USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal) have not had all their athletes on campus as a significant factor for the cancellation, in the midst of what he called an “absolutely devastating disease.”
“The coaches, I don’t even know how they have practice,” Robbins said.
“I think when you look at the whole picture, it’s just better to be on that side of caution, putting safety first,” Robbins added. “Having our athletes go out and compete at the highest level that I know they want to compete at, we just thought that it wasn’t safe for us to do that.
“So that’s where the decision came from. It really had nothing to do with what the other conferences we’re doing.”
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 are the only Power 5 conferences to cancel fall sports with the potential of playing in the spring. The ACC, SEC and Big 12 are proceeding with sports in the fall — for now.
Conferences such as the Mountain West, Mid-American and Colonial Athletic Association have also canceled their fall sports.
Robbins, a cardiovascular surgeon who had his residency at Stanford University, mentioned that the recent news of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and its effects on athletes who had COVID-19 played a significant part in the final decision to “pause” athletics in the fall.
ESPN reported earlier this week myocarditis has been found in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes and among several other athletes in other conferences.
“There are details around some of the side effects, not the least of which are the cardiac effects that we just started to learn in the last few days, so I think it was a total picture of where we were at this point in time and, of course, being in constant contact with our peers around the country,” Robbins said.
“You saw what the Big Ten did (canceling fall sports). I’ve learned about this data (concerning myocarditis) actually from Big Ten colleagues and started looking into it.”
The pause on sports until at least January buys the university some time to “figure out the athletic side of things,” said Robbins, who is primarily concerned about the viability of opening the campus to some students later this month for the fall semester.
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He also mentioned that Arizona may be part of the Pac-12’s potential mammoth loan program that would help cash-strapped athletic departments with football canceled in the fall, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News last week.
According to a series of emails obtained by the Mercury-News through public records requests, the loan would provide a maximum of $83 million for each university at a rate of 3.75 percent over 10 years.
“Certainly, we’re considering that,” Robbins said. “At this point, I certainly would consider every option. We’ve had discussions with our faculty colleagues about ‘why do you have to be so tough on us with a furlough program? Why don’t you just borrow the money?’
“Well, there’s some issues. No. 1, you have to pay the money back. And if it’s a short-term line of credit, you have to pay it back within a year, and we’re not permitted to borrow money by the state statute of operations.”
Being part of the Pac-12’s proposed loan program is feasible, however, because of the revenue that can be produced by television contracts in the future, Robbins said.
“I’m looking for capital any where I can find it,” Robbins said. “I think we would be foolish not to consider any favorable terms.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.