SBJ Unpacks: Charlotte AD Mike Hill Discusses The Road Ahead
The NCAA has cleared D-I athletic programs to resume workouts and rolled out guidelines for schools to follow as they allow athletes to return to campus. At UNC Charlotte, located in a city in which cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise in recent weeks, that return will begin with voluntary workouts, likely in the middle of the month. On the latest episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead,” our Bill King discussed the complexities of that resumption -- and the vast and continued impact of the pandemic on college sports -- with Charlotte AD Mike Hill.
On the difference between a return to work for professional athletes and a return to school for students:
Hill: They are under our care, and we’re going to take extraordinary measures to try to ensure them the safest environment that we can when they return. One of the most important parts, we felt, of developing our plans was to actually vet it with some student-athletes. We did not want to make any decisions in a vacuum and make any assumptions. We wanted to have some feedback from our student-athletes.
On whether games can reasonably be played without other students on campus:
Hill: From the beginning of this crisis when we contemplated this question the consensus with us and our staff was that if the students aren’t on campus, then that includes student-athletes. How can you compete and how can you practice when you don’t have students on campus? Generally speaking, I still and we still feel that way. The reality is we may have protocols in place for our athletes, coaches and staff that give them a better opportunity to continue what they’re doing than a campus of 30,000 students. You’re not going to be able to enforce the protocols you can with 400 student athletes that you can with 30,000 students. If a campus is shut down and students aren’t able to live on campus, aren’t able to go to class in person, it makes it much more difficult to be able to justify having student-athletes still participating. I will tell you from conversations that we’ve had with many of them, they feel very strongly that they want to be able to practice and compete regardless of the status of campus. That’s not going to be a decision that we would put necessarily just in the hands of our student-athletes.
On Charlotte's financial outlook:
Hill: We had a rainy-day fund, and this qualifies as a monsoon. It really is. We’re in a position now where we do not have to cut sports. It’s the absolute last thing that we would ever consider or want to do. No one wants to do it, and my heart goes out to my colleagues who had to go through it. It’s an awful thing, and there are institutions that are faced, right now today, without a choice because they don’t have a safety net that would allow them to move forward. It’s also a matter of how many sports you sponsor. We have 18 sports here at Charlotte, whereas other institutions that have cut have more than 18 sports, so they’re trying to correct their financial shift. That’s part of why they may be in that position. We’re very fortunate here that we are in a financially strong position, and we are going to continue to operate in that fashion and have great optimism that we are going to be able to move forward with the 18 sports that we have.