Alabama AD Greg Byrne Staying Patient, Says SEC's Goal is to Play this Fall
On Thursday afternoon, University of Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne was made available to the media to discuss, and offer, updates on the upcoming college football season.
Coming on the heels of the Big Ten and Pac-12's decision to postpone fall sports earlier this week, Byrne made it clear that the SEC's goal is still play this fall, targeting that Sept. 26 start date.
"There has been some, but not a ton of discussions on a spring season," Byrne said. "We are focused on our plans for this fall. Our goal is to play this fall. We have adjusted a lot since March and we will continue to evolve and adjust as necessary."
Byrne noted that Alabama does not have the official dates for games on the new, 10-game, conference-only schedule yet, but once it does, which could be very soon in the next week, then a plan for capacity at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be released.
He also shut down the notion of continuing a fall season strictly for financial reasons, citing that budget cuts are coming across athletic departments, with or without sports.
"Once we get those final dates, then we will release our ticketing plan," Byrne said. "But I can tell you the capacity will be significantly reduced. Emphasis on the significant.
"Whether we play or we don’t play, there are significant financial challenges that athletic departments all across the country are going to have, including what we’re going to have to address here at Alabama. And we’ve already taken steps. As soon as everything got shut down last spring, we instantly froze budgets. We’ve tried to be very discrete as much as possible from a spending standpoint. And we have other plans that we have been developing over the past several months that we will talk about with more detail once we know what we are working with.”
As for the schedule itself, there is the possibility of shifting traditional dates for rivalry games around, but Byrne stated that, he believes, there is an importance of having the Iron Bowl staying close to its normal date as possible.
"I think there is something to be said of having that game towards the end of the year," Byrne said. "Whenever they tell us to play it, we will play it. But I think there is something to be said about the meaning of it being towards the end of the year."
Since athletes have returned to the Capstone earlier this summer, Byrne says the "aggressive" testing conducted by the school has been extremely helpful in seeing the number of positive COVID-19 tests go down.
He also revealed that, when a player comes into the Alabama program, thorough cardiovascular testing is done and no cases of myocarditis have been found in any Crimson Tide athlete yet.
"We had some positive tests when our athletes first came back," Byrne said. "We have had a dramatic decrease since they have gotten under our umbrella, and that is good. I can also tell you that we have not had a case of myocarditis. It is something that we are monitoring closely. We are doing what we can at the University of Alabama to make sure we are supporting the health and well-being of our student-athletes through this environment that we are in."
Byrne seemed very pleased with how everyone in the Alabama athletic department has been handling the COVID-19 safety protocols, like social-distancing and contract tracing.
"If you do and follow the CDC guidelines from a contact-tracing standpoint, I think you have an opportunity to move forward to try and play whatever sport it is in the fall,” Byrne said. “That is what we have been doing as a department, and that is what we are going to continue to do. If the fall sports season is called off at some point, then obviously we’ll follow those guidelines. I think we have heard clearly from our student-athletes that the great majority of them want an opportunity to try to play.”