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Murray State Athletics Planning For Socially Distant Semester After OVC Postpones Fall Sports

Murray State University Athletics

As the cancellation of fall collegiate sports places a strain on athletic departments throughout the nation, Murray State University is working to safely adapt to the demands of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Ohio Valley Conference announced earlier this month their plan to postpone fall sports competition and championships until the spring 2021 semester. The move impacts football, men's and women's cross country, women's soccer, women's volleyball, the fall schedules for men's and women's golf, and the fall schedules for men's and women's tennis. 

With competition largely impossible for the fall semester, Murray State Athletic Director Kevin Saal said he is working to plan safe practices for the university’s athletic teams. He said practice will be extremely important due to the abrupt departure of students from campus in March, which meant a lack of practice for MSU’s student athletes. 

“Fall will be kept primarily to practice and technical skill and drill development,” Saal said in a media call. 

The NCAA and OVC are expected to provide guidance to member schools on how to safely conduct practices, Saal said. He added Murray State will take a “conservative approach.”

Saal said his department has taken multiple actions since the pandemic began to accommodate social distancing in athletic facilities. Facilities including the CFSB Center and Roy Stewart Stadium enforce daily temperature and wellness checks for those entering the buildings. Non-football student athletes playing fall sports were asked to return to campus during the traditional move-in week, later than the usual return for players.

Credit Murray State University Athletics
MSU Athletic Director Kevin Saal

Saal said the budget for the athletics department could be a potential issue moving forward. He said shutdowns forced by the coronavirus have made an impact on the department’s revenues. Saal said he plans to trim spending in response.

“Our department’s budget is built upon planned revenue and planned expenses. In short, both revenues and expenses are impacted by this decision,” Saal said.

Despite the massive changes at the hands of university and conference leadership, Saal said most student athletes wish to play their sport in a normal manner.

“In general, I would describe the collective sentiment to be similar to the national conversation,” Saal said. “Most, if not all, want to play. All of our coaches, our staff, our student athletes, our administrators, we all want to play.”

However, Saal said safety takes precedence over wanting to resume full athletic involvement.

“Each of our student athletes, I’m confident, understand the difficulty of the decision and the guiding principles we would use to make the decision: their safety and their well-being,” Saal explained.

Dalton York is a Morning Edition host and reporter for WKYU in Bowling Green. He is a graduate of Murray State University, where he majored in History with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. While attending Murray State, he worked as a student reporter at WKMS. A native of Marshall County, he is a proud product of his tight-knit community.
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