Laird Veatch outlines how coronavirus affects Memphis athletic department

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 19, 2020 6:20 PM CT | Published: March 19, 2020 6:17 PM CT

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While there could be some savings from not traveling while University of Memphis athletics are canceled, Athletic Director Laird Veatch said Thursday it is too early to tell the entire economic impact connected to the coronavirus.

“I think there’s no question that it’s going to impact us significantly from a financial standpoint,” Veatch said. “At this point, we’re just beginning to grasp the potential impacts. I think that’s settling in across the country in many respects.

<strong>Laird Veatch</strong>

Laird Veatch

Veatch made the comments during a prerecorded message, answering media questions. The athletic director outlined how the university continues to handle the coronavirus outbreak. 

Like every aspect of life, U of M athletics has been stalled by the breakout of the coronavirus. Spring sports have been canceled by the American Athletic Conference. Questions remain about spring football practice, which has been postponed indefinitely, and the Friday Night Stripes Spring Game. 

“In terms of fall camps themselves, it’s too early to say in terms of how it will impact fall camps and the regulated calendar we have for practices in general,” Veatch said. “I would say I, and many others, are hopeful some semblance of spring football, or we should call it late summer football, could be possible but at the same time, I’m not necessarily optimistic at this point that we’ll have a chance to do that.” 

The first-year athletic director confirmed no players have been tested for the virus, and they do not have capabilities within the sports medicine department. 

“We are not able to test ourselves from a sports medicine standpoint in Memphis athletics but we have the connections readily available to do so if or when needed,” Veatch said. 

The U of M is discouraging group activities, so officials have closed on-campus sports facilities. Veatch said 163 of the university’s 400 student-athletes remain in the Memphis area. 

Memphis continues helping student-athletes who cannot go home. Support from fans is appreciated, but those efforts are needed elsewhere in the community, according to Veatch. 

“We’ve had several fans and people reach out about how they can help, which we certainly appreciate,” Veatch said. “... The reality is that we can take care of their basic needs. I know there was an initiative that came out (Wednesday) night from some well-intending fans and staff to try and secure some funds for feeding our student-athletes. The reality is that we can do those things. There’s a whole lot of need in this community. Ours is probably not the most pressing.” 

Regulations and screening are already in development by the sports medicine staff when the facilities do re-open. In a letter to coaches, staff and student-athletes earlier this week, Veatch said each facility is being deep cleaned so they will have an optimal environment to return to when the time comes. 

“Our sports medicine staff has done a really good job of establishing some protocols and guidelines to manage that process,” Veatch said. “Essentially in the end when our student-athletes are able to return to our facilities, there will be a very thorough screening process when they first enter the facility. A lot of different regulations will be put into place, like strict access to certain locations within the facilities, spacing guidelines and cleaning initiatives and requirements that will have to take place between every use. Really from an overall standpoint, it’s about minimizing risk and putting it into something that will be sustainable over the long term.” 

The cancellation of spring sports will impact the eligibility of athletes, but Veatch thinks it’s “too soon” to tell if that will be given back or amended. Seniors on each team could be done in their respective sports without playing a game while others have lost a year of their college careers. 

The cancellation and subsequent loss of revenue will be felt by the university as well. The coronavirus outbreak could lead to less fundraising and has already led to Memphis implementing money-saving measures. 

“The NCAA member institutions aren’t alone in that,” Veatch said. “There’s been a lot of talk about the impact on NCAA revenues with the NCAA (basketball) Tournament cancellation. There will be other areas. There could impacts on fundraising. There could be impacts on the university’s financial position. They’re certainly supportive of our efforts on many levels. Across the board, it’s something we’re really beginning to get our head around and understand.

“To the point, we’re quickly putting in some spending controls, some cost-saving controls and manage that going forward. I’d expect there’s some savings from not having travel and some other things here in the coming months, but not to the level that it’s going to offset the loss of potential revenues.”


Memphis Tigers Football coronavirus Laird Veatch
Jonah Jordan

Jonah Jordan

Jonah Jordan was born and raised in Memphis, graduated from the University of Memphis and has covered the Memphis Tigers for three years. When he's not writing, he enjoys golfing and eating barbecue.


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