Greg Byrne provides updates on Alabama football, athletics amid coronavirus outbreak

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Alabama football coach Nick Saban attends the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Alabama and LSU, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne spent nearly 30 minutes fielding questions via teleconference Thursday.

Byrne addressed how the Tide athletic department is functioning amid the coronavirus outbreak. Some of the main topics included COVID-19’s impact on spring sports – including football, the upcoming college football season, construction at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and how the department is handling COVID-19 testing.

On spring football practice: It still has not been officially been canceled. But I think the reality is if you look at our campuses in our conference and most of the campuses across the country, most of them are moving towards online education the rest of the semester. And so I think the chances are not great but we have not made that final determination at this point.

On discussions with Nick Saban regarding spring football and the upcoming season: He and I have already talked about it several times, and we talk about different scenarios and I think that obviously we’ve got to, you can’t just go out and play games without any practice and development time beforehand. So we’ve talked about what different scenarios look like. So I can have his thoughts, which as you all know, he is always very well thought out on different possibilities and scenarios and so it’s been very helpful.

On Bryant-Denny Stadium renovations: The construction continues. We’re on schedule. It’s been a wet spring but I can tell you we’ve had a regular conversation with our general contractor to make sure they’re taking necessary steps during this new reality we’re in.

On NCAA eligibility for spring athletes with shortened seasons: We’ve had a number of conversations about it actually I just had one a few minutes ago. Most of that conversation is taking place in the conference office. We are supportive of the spring sports being able to adjust the rosters and if student-athletes would like to come back they have the ability to do so. And at this point, I don’t know if that would just be seniors or all of our student-athletes.

On football season going on as scheduled: I understand why the next narrative, I figured a couple of days ago when a lot of these postponements and cancellations started happening that that would be the next question asked. I still think we are too early to really have strong opinions about that. All of our focus has to be on the health and wellness of everyone involved. And if we as a country do our very best to minimize the spread of this virus that gives us the best opportunity to return to normal as a country as soon as possible.

On financial impact for the department: We think the NCAA tournament part will be a couple of million dollars. That is our best estimate at this point. And then we are studying, in which we do constantly, we study different economic scenarios and so we do that and we are currently doing that and we talk about some new realities but I don’t have any data beyond the NCAA standpoint.

On testing Alabama student-athletes for coronavirus: I’m not an attorney and so I’m not real comfortable, as you can imagine, talking about steps we are taking as a department from how it impacts the individual from a health standpoint. Please I’m not trying to be avoided, what I can tell you is that we have communicated extensively with our student-athletes and coaches about steps that they need to take to prevent. And if there are signs that they have and what they need to do. Our medical team and coaches have been very proactive with the communication.


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