With COVID-19 derailing college sports programs like the University of Wisconsin and the University of Maryland, many wonder what is going on behind the scenes with Eastern Michigan University’s football team. Sports Editor Luke Gremban and Sports Columnist Caleb Burlingame sat down with Greg Steiner, EMU’s associate athletic director, last Saturday, Nov. 7, to discuss COVID-19 protocols, and whether fans would be permitted in the stands anytime soon. You can listen to the interview here, or read the main points below.
Typical COVID-19 day-to-day for Steiner and EMU athletes
“It’s a lot of wearing a mask,” Steiner said. “That’s the biggest thing. I’ve been lucky enough to be back in the office since September.” Steiner also mentioned that he is getting COVID tested weekly, and that student athletes get tested four times weekly.
Steiner’s duties change by the day, but some responsibilities he mentioned were: Writing game notes, going to all football games, coordinating press conferences, overseeing the video board operations for home football games, and talking to ESPN.
According to Steiner, if a play does test positive, then they are tested again to see if it was a false positive. If the results come back positive again, contact tracing is conducted to see who that athlete was around.
“It’s a very long process,“ Steiner said, "but I’m thankful for our ability to put these policies and procedures in place. EMU has been able to handle the pandemic better than a lot of other places.”
EMU recruiting changes
With NCAA protocols, universities cannot host in-person visits for recruits. This is detrimental to EMU athletes, because a lot of student athletes have a hard time deciding where to play when they haven’t set foot on campus.
“You don’t want to make such a life altering decision without knowing what you’re getting yourself into,” Steiner said “We don’t know how signing classes are going to go going forward.”
Fans in the stands for football or basketball?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like fans are going to be able to attend football or basketball games any time soon. A limited number of families of student athletes, cheerleaders, and the band are allowed at games, but EMU’s policy is that no general public may be present at games until January of 2021.
The details on the 2020-2021 EMU basketball season
“The word right now is that on Nov. 25, the men and women’s basketball teams will be tipping off,“ Steiner said. "There are a lot of new faces on both teams.”
Steiner said the men should have a very talented squad this year and that he is very excited to see both teams. He also added that the MAC has not put out the entire COVID-19 protocols for basketball yet, but that it will be very similar to football in terms of testing and fans.
EMU will play a 20 game conference schedule, but they may schedule seven non-conference games to add to the schedule. The one change to take note of is that normally, all 12 teams make the conference tourney, but now there will only be eight teams that make it to Cleveland for the MAC tournament.
Status of other sports team
“The smaller sports are in good shape,“ Steiner said. "Swimming will host our first home event, and it’s been almost eight months since we shut down so it’ll be nice to get some action going.”
Steiner said that from January through June will be packed full of EMU sports, with a game taking place every Tuesday-Sunday.
In regards to the budget, Steiner said that EMU is not immune to the hit on sports revenue. He feels they have made tough decisions in the past, putting them in a good position to deal with the pandemic now.
Advice on how to get into the sports marketing world
Simply enough, Mr. Steiner said his best advice is to get connected and volunteer. The more people you know, the better, because they’ll most likely call on you when they’re looking to fill a position. Steiner added that volunteering is important, because even though a lot of places won’t be able to offer compensation, it is still important to make a connection.
Has COVID-19 changed the landscape of college sports for good?
While Steiner doesn’t have a crystal ball to say for sure, he expects that many sports programs will need to reassess their financial structure as a result of the pandemic. Like most, he hopes that daily protocol will return to normal soon.
“I hope we don’t have to go through this again, for example, using a tape measure to measure tables six feet apart,” Steiner said. ” I hope we go back to the old way, it’s weird to not high five after a touchdown. I think in terms of our culture, you look at schools at the Power 5 level that had a blank checkbook and could spend whatever they want. Now you have to be smarter about it. You’ll see them having to reevaluate their business model.”
Web Article: Caleb Burlingame
Podcast Hosts: Caleb Burlingame, Luke Gremban
Producer: Ronia Cabansag, Danny Murphy
Editor: Ronia Cabansag