(Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview with Shane Lyons)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The daily to-do list for West Virginia University Athletic Director Shane Lyons is cluttered and filled with various tasks on the NCAA, Big 12 Conference and WVU levels. He addressed many of those issues in a wide-ranging interview on Thursday’s Citynet Statewide Sportsline.
Of most pressing interest to Mountaineer fans and fans throughout the Big 12 is the conference schedule. Earlier this week, the league announced their schools will play a ‘9+1’ format. The exact schedule could be released Friday.
“I am fortunate enough to be on the five-AD working group in the Big 12 working on this so I get a sneak peek at it (Thursday night),” Lyons said. “Hopefully we can narrow it down and be able to present to the full AD group (Friday) as we move forward. We have a couple different options we will explore and see what that looks like. Our goal is to get it out by the end of (Friday).”
In the original league schedule, each school had one bye week in the regular season. A possible delay in the conference championship game could allow for as many as three bye weeks, making room for possible postponements if needed.
“We already have one in the current schedule. What we are trying to do is build an additional bye week in the regular season. If we have a start date anywhere in between the 19th and the 26th of September for conference play, then what it looks like we are talking about is extending the championship game to December 12. That way you leave the December 5th week open for any makeup games you have to play.”
Some schools across the country are starting to release attendance policies for how many, if any fans will be allowed into stadiums. For WVU, that decision may be done in short order.
“A month out is when we have to make the call and that is next week. We will continue working with that. You saw (Thursday) in the news that Penn State is not allowing any fans. But we have some other schools that have announced that they are allowing 25 to 30 percent.”
West Virginia’s season opener will likely be on September 12 at home against Eastern Kentucky. Despite the one week delay in play, the original practice schedule outlined over the summer remains intact.
“The 25 practice opportunities will be counted back from that September 5th date.”
When the Colonels come to town, COVID testing protocols will be agreed to well in advance of kickoff.
“We have had some preliminary discussions with them about this, not knowing for sure how this was going to play out. But now that we know for sure that we are going to continue to play this game, we will have discussions about testing and our expectations before they arrive in Morgantown.”
On an NCAA level, Lyons is the Chairman of the Division I Football Oversight Committee. One of their pressing issues is student-athlete eligibility should football players elect not to compete in 2020. Also, if a season is cut short due to the pandemic, would the normal ‘4-game’ rule count towards a year of eligibility?
“If they opt-out and we don’t finish the season, what is the situation for each student-athlete and their eligibility? I knew we were going to have to discuss it at some point but the Board of Directors yesterday put that as a front burner issue. We had an opportunity to discuss it today and the NCAA Council will discuss next week.”
“The question is, do you stay with that formula, which is roughly about thirty percent of the games in the normal year? That’s one question we will look at. We will also talk about the extension of the five-year clock, especially for those young men that are in their fifth year and the senior year. If they opt-out, do you automatically get a sixth year to return next year?
“And then the biggest question you have is the financial aid aspect of it. If a student-athlete returns for their sixth year, what is the requirement for financial aid? And does that requirement for financial aid have to county towards the current limit of 85 (scholarships) or do you get a one-year grace period for all those returning?”
The NCAA has yet to determine the status of Division I fall sport championships. At WVU, soccer, volleyball and cross country seasons remain in limbo, uncertain if those sports may be pushed to the spring.
“Those athletes want to compete in their traditional time period. So that is what we are trying to do as a department and as a conference as a whole. Some teams in conferences across the country have opted out and decided to wait until spring to compete. But there are still plenty out there in the ‘Autonomy 5’ that continue to want to compete in the traditional fall season.”