In response to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s statement Tuesday about the safety of sports returning and the idea that teams need a ‘bubble’ to play safely, athletic director Warde Manuel was clear:
“We will not isolate our student athletes … They are not professionals and we won’t get into a situation where we are placing them into a hotel continuously to isolate them from their fellow students and whomever else.”
Manuel just doesn’t see that as any part of the athletic department’s future plans, no matter who said it might be necessary.
“If that is the only way that we have to proceed, then we have to make other decisions,” Manuel said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
He was not clear on what ‘other decisions’ may entail and whether or not those decisions would directly impact whether fall sports, including football, would be played. In a constantly fluctuating offseason, those decisions will only become clear as time passes, and the only thing to do currently is wait.
“We are waiting. We’ve waited this long,” Manuel said. “As we move forward, we are trying to slow our decision making while increasingly looking at every piece of information and talking through all of the details that go on.”
A large piece of information that will impact the athletics decision is University President Mark Schlissel’s pending decision on students’ ability to return to campus this fall. Schlissel has already stated that if students do not return, neither will sports.
“I stand by that statement and I think he stands by his statement,” Manuel said. “ … If it’s declared that our students can’t come back to campus for class, why would I ask my student athletes to come back and participate in sports? It’s against how I think about our student athletes. They are students first.
“ … (Schlissel) was on the same page as me from day one.”
Manuel’s stance on both issues boils down rather simply: athletes are part of the student body, and separating them from it for athletics is in no way part of the future.