As summer hits and football season draws ever closer, there’s one preeminent question on the minds of all football fans: what will this fall bring, and how will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the game as we know it?
Fortunately, there seems to be plenty of optimism on that front.
On Friday morning, Joe Castiglione made his weekly appearance on KREF’s “T-Row in the Morning Show,” and per usual, COVID-19’s continued impact on college athletics took center stage in the discussion. Host Toby Rowland began by asking the Oklahoma athletic director if he was feeling positive about the coming football season’s status.
“I am,” Castiglione said. “First of all, full disclosure, I feel real positive every day. [But] I do feel like we’re making some good progress… Even though we’ve got some amazing scientists tracking it, monitoring it, experimenting and trying to treat it - we live in a world where we want instant gratification and it just hasn’t been that way. But little by little, we’re able to get a piece of information and make some new decisions.”
A fully outlined return plan across collegiate athletics is still in limbo, but Castiglione said he supports the ideas that have been discussed.
“I know they haven’t confirmed anything at the NCAA,” he acknowledged. “There’s still a chance [the plan] gets modified before it gets approved finally. I talk to Coach Riley daily, and we’ve been working through all these different machinations as they’ve been proposed. But this makes sense, and allows us to ramp up a little bit more... I’ve worked through this, and I think it’s a good plan, and I hope it does get approved.”
On June 1, the Big 12 conference officially announced return dates for voluntary on-campus athletic activity. Though the conference permitted football activities as early as June 15, Oklahoma will re-open campus facilities and begin workouts on July 1.
“These dates allow us to get an opportunity for a continual climb toward the type of conditioning that we want,” Castiglione said.
Rowland inquired about the possibility of testing all athletes and staffers for COVID-19, and what type of financial commitment that might entail. Castiglione didn’t have an exact answer, but gave a ballpark estimate based on the current economy.
“That changes all the time, like anything else when there’s more supply than there is demand,” he said. “We’ve figured at the current price, to do one test for our staff and student-athletes for the football team would be somewhere in the $15,000 to $18,000 range.”
However, Castiglione indicated he’s confident that figure may decline.
“I think all of that pricing is going to come down, and maybe by the time we get to the end of this month, we might see a different price point,” he said. “But it’s not only that expense… we’re having to disinfect our facilities repeatedly. You have the additional PPE. There are some budgetary impacts. But we’re going to find a way to do the right thing so we can protect everybody.”
Castiglione also expressed his gratitude for his staff and community within the athletic department after Stadium named him the Big 12 Conference’s top AD this week. Though he valued the recognition, he deferred the praise to those he works alongside.
“I really never think it’s about me,” he said. “If anything, this is a chance for me to shine the spotlight on the real reason anything like that could happen. And that’s the people we get to work with. Our student-athletes have such incredible commitment; they work so hard. Coaches, staff, fans, every administration of our university - everybody works together… That’s what really makes a difference and why these awards happen.”
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