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Kerry Eggers on Sports: 'The only thing I'm certain about is things continue to change'

Scott Barnes was in Las Vegas on Thursday when word reached the Oregon State men's basketball coaches and players hours before they were to face Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 yournament: Their season was over due to the coronavirus.

The disappointment was palpable.

"The scene was unlike anything I've ever seen," said Barnes, OSU's athletic director, in a Friday afternoon conference call. "To have that rug pulled out from under them was a really difficult situation. But they understand a bigger picture — their health and well-being. It's still not an easy pill to swallow for any competitive student-athlete."

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - BARNESBarnes gave a briefing on several issues affected by COVID-19, including an NCAA proposal to grant an additional year of eligibility to the spring-sport athletes who had their season of competition mostly eliminated.

It's a terrific idea, to give athletes what amounts to a redshirt year for missing the spring of 2020. Those players who lost most of a season would get a season of eligibility back. Barnes said he is in favor of it. "We would love to see that," he said.

Problem is, there are a lot of things to consider.

Let's talk baseball for a minute. NCAA limits each Division I school to 11.7 scholarships. Oregon State is at the limit. If the Beavers return all of their current players in 2021 — save for a junior or two who will sign a pro contract — where are the scholarships to attract an incoming recruiting class?

And if the NCAA temporarily raises the limit on scholarships, where does the money come from?

Also: Oregon State's 11.7 scholarships are divided 30-some ways. That means the students, or the students' families, are paying a good share of college expenses. Are they going to be able to handle the cost of an extra year of school?

The other part of it is team rosters, which would likely grow by about a dozen. There will be what amounts to two freshman classes — '20 and '21, as well as any redshirts from the class of '19.

That's a lot of freshmen. It will be more difficult for a coach to reach a 35-player limit — a good thing for the coaches, sure, but a bad thing for the athletes who are trying to make the team.

The NCAA has canceled all championship events for the spring, including the College World Series. It seems a bit premature, given the dates are June 13-24, three months from now.

Barnes said the Pac-12 has not yet canceled the entire season of the spring sports teams — at OSU, that's baseball, softball, women's track and field, men's and women's golf and men's and women's rowing.

"There is potential saving of a partial season, aside from championship events," Barnes said. "The likelihood is (spring sports) could be canceled, but it's not yet determined fully. I anticipate that answer to come sooner rather than later."

If spring sports are brought back at some point before the end of the season, "it would be with a fanless venue," the OSU AD said.

Spring football is on hiatus until at least March 29, when students are scheduled to return after spring break.

"The only thing I'm certain about is things continue to change," Barnes said. "We'll do a check-in on March 29, take a look and make further decisions."

Barnes declined a question about the economic impact of the loss of winter sports championships events and spring sports. But potential revenue from the men's and women's NCAA Tournaments was lost. Gate receipts from baseball are also substantial enough to matter.

No spring sports can have team practice sessions.

OSU athletes are on their own for a while. Barnes said for now, training table remains open. Athletes can use the Sports Performance Center for workouts and training. Coaches can provide "support and consulting," Barnes said.

Let's worry about that later, Barnes said to a question about fall sports such as football.

"It feels like it's 100 years away, because of the sense of urgency with what we're doing," he said.

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@kerryeggers


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