Viterbo AD details current plans for return of fall sports

The debating and planning for a fall sports season in college athletics is taking place from the smallest schools to Capitol Hill. And while millions of dollars are at stake when it comes to Division I football, it’s the smaller associations like the NAIA that could have a leg up in getting sports back in the fall.

That’s the viewpoint of Viterbo Athletic Director Barry Fried. He virtually spent time with News 8 Now Sports Director Ken Kosirowski to expand on recent NAIA guidelines for a fall return, as well as Viterbo’s own specific plans to keep student-athletes safe on campus.

The NAIA’s guidelines mandate that practices can’t happen until August 15, and they’ve lowered the amount of maximum games for fall sports(seven for cross country, 14 for soccer and 22 for volleyball). Viterbo has already had its indoor and outdoor facilities closed this summer, but when it comes time to students getting back on campus, Fried believes the athletic department will be ready to prioritize health and safety, despite the limited resources of a school its size.

“We’re going to do pre-testing of every student-athlete, when they walk on campus,” said Fried, “and then one of the decision points we discussed on campus was are we going to test every athlete after every road trip? At this point in time, we do not feel we are going to have the ability to be testing athletes every day or even after every competition. What we will do is we’re going to have health screenings, infrared temperature checks, and once they become symptomatic, that becomes the point of next steps.”

For indoor sports like volleyball, the R.W. Beggs Gymnasium will also have protocols in place, from sanitizing stations to limited attendance.

“We’re erring on the side of safety with 25 percent, and to put that in context, we’re looking at around 200 people in our gymnasium,” Fried said. “We’ll limit our concessions to bottled soda and prepackaged candy.”

Fried expects to be asked plenty of what-if questions and scenarios over the next few months, but he says the nature of this pandemic means they can’t all be answered right now.

“There is no way we are possibly going to be able to stop, prevent, or eliminate every risk,” Fried said. “You can’t do it. So I’ve tried to condition my staff to talk about risk management vs. risk avoidance.

“We don’t know where this thing is headed, so this plan has to be flexible and adaptable.”

Fried says that in addition to testing, students will have to do one other thing before hitting the field.

“Students will be asked to sign a participant waiver, where we fully disclose what we’re doing to keep them safe, but at the end of the day they’re going to have to sign a waiver to say they fully understand the associated risk, they choose to participate and assume any risk that would become real as being part of a team,” he said.

These waivers and all the on-campus protocols are still at the mercy of the NAIA’s biggest guideline. In order for the league to green-light a season, half of the participating universities in each sport have to receive clearance from local authorities. Fried says that could include Viterbo’s administration and governmental recommendations. And at this point in time, Fried is optimistic for the fall.

“Never a for-sure, but I am absolutely confident we will resume sports, return to play in the fall, with competitions beginning Sept. 5 or thereafter,” Fried said. “I’m very optimistic about that.”