On March 11, 2020, the National Basketball Association suspended their season indefinitely because a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. That player would later be identified as All-Star center Rudy Gobert. This news sent shockwaves throughout the sports world, and one by one, the dominoes began to fall. Commissioners from the Power Five conferences slowly began to cancel their basketball tournaments, ultimately ending with the BIG EAST Tournament canceling halfway through the Creighton vs. St. John’s game. Throughout the next few days, the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled the remaining spring and winter seasons and tournaments. Soccer leagues across the world and the remaining major sports leagues suspended their games for the foreseeable future. Within the blink of an eye, no major sports were being played throughout the world. This begs the question: what does a sports information department do when there are no sports?
John Dedman, the sports information director for Butler, was in New York with the team for the BIG EAST Tournament when it got canceled. “When the Rudy Gobert news came out, I felt that playing the entire BIG EAST Tournament in front of fans wasn’t going to happen. I was confident we would play Thursday-Saturday in front of the limited crowd. However, sitting in our team room at about 11:30AM Thursday morning, once I saw one conference after another pull their teams off the court prior to the noon games, I knew there was no way we get the entire BIG EAST Tournament in.” The announcement was obviously a huge disappointment for Dedman and the players, but Dedman’s focus immediately shifted to safety and logistics.
“It was spring break and many of our teams were scattered across the country. We needed to make sure they were safe, and then get plans together for ending their competitions and safely getting them home/back to campus.” Once the athletes were back safely, how can the sports information department support them remotely? Athletic trainers have to help athletes rehab injuries over FaceTime and help them get adjusted to online learning. In the bigger picture, a big problem with all of these cancellations is how much money will the athletics department and the university lose? The exact amount is still not sure.
Looking forward though, Dedman says that there is still plenty of work to be done even though there are no sports. Projects that were planned for June and July to plan for the upcoming fall sports are now pushed up to April and May. The sports information department has managed to stay busy and productive, but a few challenges arise.
“The biggest thing is trying to be creative. How can we engage on social media without games? What feature ideas can populate our web site since we don’t have previews or recaps or highlights?”
Adding on to that, like many other people around the world, Dedman misses the interaction with the outside world. He misses talking with his employees and athletes and most importantly, getting to work inside Hinkle Fieldhouse every day.