HUNTINGTON — Marshall University’s football’s 2020 spring practice was expected to get underway this week in Huntington as the Thundering Herd started its preparation for next season.
Now, no one knows when that preparation will take place.
On Thursday evening, Conference USA announced that it was canceling all spring practices, effective immediately.
“Following further discussion with the Conference USA athletics directors with approval by the board of directors, C-USA announced today the cancellation of formal and organized practice, effective immediately,” the league statement said. “All other team activities will be governed by NCAA rules within each institution’s discretion.”
While several Conference USA members in the south were able to get in some practice time prior to the coronavirus outbreak putting a stoppage to all NCAA-related activities last week, the Herd never got onto the field.
Marshall, Conference USA’s northernmost institution, was just three days away from the start of its spring drills when word came down of the postponement of drills on March 12.
That postponement became a cancellation on Thursday as more knowledge and advice comes forth on the coronavirus, which has been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
The Center for Disease Control issued a recommendation earlier this week of no gatherings of large groups for eight weeks, which started to shift the thinking from ‘when’ to ‘if’ in regards to spring football drills for teams all across the country. Now, Conference USA’s latest measure has essentially ended anything sports-related within the conference until at least the start of the 2020-21 academic year.
The information in regards to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is ever-changing, as are the effects of its spread.
Just hours prior to Conference USA’s announcement, Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick spoke about the potential of spring practice, based on an announcement from Marshall that instruction would take place online through the end of the spring 2020 semester.
That announcement included that students who traveled home during the break would not be permitted to return to campus until receiving clearance from the university.
“They’re not encouraging students to come back to campus after spring break, so if our football team does not come back and things don’t change, I don’t believe there will be spring football practice,” Hamrick said. “If you ask me right now, I would tell you there will be no spring football practice.”
Hamrick’s words came to fruition just hours later with the announcement from Conference USA, which means likely legislation from the NCAA that will work with teams on allotting practice days during the summer. Hamrick, who is on the NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee, said such talks could be in the works.
“There’s always options to do different things, but everyday it’s changing,” Hamrick said. “I think what we’re doing is just waiting for this thing to stabilize before we take any steps forward. When that is, nobody knows and until that happens, there’s not a lot of decisions that can be made.”