T-Row and Joe: Castiglione says Sooners are Coming Back, but 'We’re Not Even Close to Talking About the Season'

John. E. Hoover

With decisions being made at the NCAA level, in the Southeastern Conference and elsewhere in the sports world about when athletes should return to play, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said Friday his school will wait — out of caution, and because the Big 12 Conference will soon be making its own decisions.

Either way, Castiglione echoed what his head football coach told media last week: that coming back to campus on June 1, as the NCAA this week has allowed, is too soon.

“I do not anticipate bringing our student athletes back the first of June,” Castiglione said Friday during his regular segment on KREF in Norman with voice of the Sooners Toby Rowland.

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE

The NCAA voted Wednesday to allow athletes in football and men’s and women’s basketball to return to campus for supervised, voluntary offseason workouts and training starting June 1 and ending June 30.

Asked if the NCAA’s announcement added pressure to move up any timeline for OU athletes returning to campus, Castiglione was emphatic.

“No. It does not,” he said. “I’m certainly well aware of it. And one could argue that there are advantages for getting the student athletes back on campus as soon as possible. But there are also risks. And in our minds, as we consistently listen to the medical experts we’ve been talking about for weeks and weeks now, we don’t believe we’re at a point yet where the positives outweigh any of the risks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In our mind, the risks far outweigh any of the positive gains we might have for those few weeks. So we are not planning to have our student athletes back for the first part of June.”

SEC presidents voted Friday that student-athletes could return for voluntary, supervised workouts on June 8. It had been reported that Big 12 CEOs also would vote Friday, Castiglione hinted that might be something that comes “early next week.

“Our own conference has not taken a position on that yet. Other conferences have not taken a position on that yet. We have tried to make decisions in a collective way, a collaborative way, so there’s some uniformity to what we do. So we’ll wait and see until those votes are taken. And ultimately, we know that as much as ADs or athletic departments have formulated their plans, these are still decisions that are made by campus leaders, or in some ways instructions or edicts by mayors, governors or the federal government.

“So we have several different elements to this. The NCAA made their statement the other day because they are deferring to each of the states and the schools to determine how they would open up after June 1st. Doesn’t mean you have to open June 1st. It’s gonna be conference to conference, hopefully several conferences voting the same thing. But if that doesn’t happen, we will make our decision based off what our conference does.”

Consensus is that teams will need 4-6 weeks to prepare for the 2020 season, including four weeks of actual football practice. Some schools may start later than others, and it’s possible some teams may start playing games before others.

Castiglione reiterated that bringing student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts in June doesn’t necessarily impact that timeline.

“Let me put it this way: I don’t feel like that decision is going to be made in that timeframe,” he said. “We are just talking about the decision to bring student-athletes back to the campus for voluntary workouts. We haven’t even talked about organized activities yet. And that could still be discussed today or during those calls where they might make some determinations about both, you know, the access to facilities and then subsequently, at a later date, organized activities. Right now we’re just talking about letting a student-athlete come in, get their workout and leave. That’s all we’re talking about.

“So we’re not even close to talking about the season.”

Like head coach Lincoln Riley said on a media video call last week, Castiglione said there’s nothing to be lost by being patient.

“I do think we might benefit by more time,” he said, “which means more and more advancement, hopefully, in the areas of testing and protocols, hopefully a decline in the spread of the virus, possibly therapeutic treatments. I know people keep talking about a vaccine, but that does not appear to be imminent — I guess there could always be a wonderful piece of news that breaks at some point. So I don’t think the timeline will occur that way.

“Some might even argue that it’s best to wait a little longer before we make that decision. So I think it’s going to be possibly more like the early to mid-part of July before that decision is made. The sooner we have the right amount of information to make a well-informed and sound decision, the better, but it doesn’t appear that decision is imminent.

“ … The other part is we’ve said this before, but as much as we are trying to move forward and we’re all wanting to get some target to be hit, some plan to be made, and an opportunity to move towards that, there’s still a fair amount of patience that has to be present as we learn more about it. Because we’re never gonna eliminate the risk of spreading the virus or contracting the virus. We’re just trying to find the best path to minimize it.”

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