As cases of COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus continue to climb, colleges are beginning to contemplate how to safely return to sports — and whether such a return is even possible.
Dr. Jon McCullers, associate dean at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine and an expert in influenza and pandemics, is leading the school’s task force on reopening. He told CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish this week that among his recommendations are having older professors — and coaches — work remotely or take a year off.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, individuals above age 65 are "at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19." That means that several college coaches — including such high profile ones as Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams, all of whom are above 70, could be putting themselves at risk by returning to the sidelines.
If colleges open and resume regular operations, tens of thousands of students could be milling about, Parrish writes, including players who spend time closely huddled with their coaches and teammates in close quarters such as locker rooms. He argues that coaches in the high-risk category, particularly Boeheim, a 76-year-old cancer survivor, may consider physically removing himself from those risky situations — either by taking some time off or by finding ways to coach remotely, such as by running practices from a distance or by coaching from an arena luxury box.
Parrish notes that such measures are hypothetical at this point, as it remains unclear how and whether a college basketball season would unfold under circumstances that could develop in myriad ways over the coming months. However, McCullers said that for any coach over 70 to consider a return to business-as-usual in a situation without a vaccine seems risky.
While most coaches have remained mum on the subject of a return, 69-year-old Mark D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets said that if the NBA returns this season, he plans on coaching while wearing a mask.