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Joe Castiglione
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 Posted: Fri Mar 13th, 2020 02:29 pm

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Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
- Abraham Lincoln

There are more important things in life than Facebook and Twitter,.. like watching TV, and having a beer.

:big confused::big confused::beer::beer::big confused::big confused::beer::beer::big confused::big confused::beer::beer::big confused::big confused::beer::beer::big confused::big confused::beer::beer::ou:


By the time Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione joined a media teleconference Thursday night to discuss an absolutely unparalleled 24 hours across the sports landscape, there remained a lot of questions he couldn’t answer.

“These are unprecedented times,” he said. “And in some cases, questions are being posed faster than answers can prudently be provided.”

But Castiglione clearly had spent time thinking deeply about the impact of several decisions that have been handed down and basically ended organized sports across America for the foreseeable future.

The biggest wave of cancellations and postponements began 30 minutes north of the OU campus, when the Oklahoma City Thunder’s home game against the Utah Jazz was abruptly canceled moments before it was set to tip off Wednesday night. Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the NBA suspending its season indefinitely. Thursday morning, conference basketball tournaments were canceled — many after they’d begun — and Thursday afternoon, the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championship events, including March Madness.

This means no Women’s College World Series, which the Sooners have reached eight of the past nine seasons. This means no shot at Omaha for the Oklahoma baseball team, which is 14-4 and ranked in the top 10 nationally. It means the likely end of Maggie Nichols’ phenomenal gymnastics career; she might be the greatest athlete to ever don the crimson and cream. It ends the chance for Oklahoma basketball senior Kristian Doolittle to make one last run through March.

“It probably hasn’t all set in yet because as I mentioned at the outset, we’ve been really focused on trying to make the best decisions that are grounded in the best interests of the people we serve — that’s student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans and generally people of our communities,” Castiglione said. “The impact goes way, way, way beyond sports. We’re thinking about everybody. By ending tournaments, that might have ended seasons for any number of sports.

“We may see some sports being played down the road, but that’s not the decision I can determine one way or the other at this moment.”

The Big 12 Conference announced Thursday that it is suspending all regular-season competition, all on- and off-campus recruiting and all out-of-season practice — i.e., spring football practice — until at least March 29.

It might be easy to write off the impact of this on football because the sport is not in season. And obviously the athletes who had this dropped on them in the middle of their actual seasons are being hit the hardest — particularly seniors. Castiglione said Thursday night that he would be in favor of the NCAA considering an additional year of eligibility for such athletes.

But this is a big deal, too, for Sooners football — by far the most popular and profitable program on campus. Oklahoma football effectively funds the entire athletic department. More than 50,000 fans attended last year’s spring game, and if the Sooners’ April 18 spring game is canceled, it would have a clear impact on local businesses who rely on events like that. Oklahoma held its first — and, so far, only — spring practice Tuesday.

“What we’re trying to do is work through these time segments,” Castiglione said. “I realize that in other parts of our collegiate world, there are various decisions being made to cancel seasons altogether, and while we have not reached that stage yet within our own conference, that could change at any point.

“We definitely understand things could change, but (the spring game is) more than a month away, and I think a decision about the spring game isn’t as important right now as making prudent decisions in any other cases. For some, they might disagree, but we’re trying to take them in the right order here. If we’re going to continually delay the continuation of spring practice, then obviously we need to quickly decide whether we change the date of the spring game or eliminate it altogether.”

Within the football program, there will be ramifications if spring practice isn’t resumed. Oklahoma is preparing a new starting quarterback — expected to be Spencer Rattler — to take over the offense. Coordinator Alex Grinch has key pieces to replace as he enters Year 2 of his defensive rebuild. And then there’s recruiting, which may be the biggest deal in all of this.

The NCAA has allowed spring official visits the past few years, and Oklahoma has used its spring game as a massive recruiting weekend since Lincoln Riley became coach. Five-star 2021 quarterback prospect Caleb Williams unofficially visited Norman earlier this month and was expected to return for his official visit for spring game weekend. Several big spring game official visitors the past few years have ended up committing, like five-star receiver Theo Wease.

Riley has made the spring game a full-on recruiting bonanza and that was set to continue in 2020, as Riley detailed earlier this week in his pre-spring news conference. Oklahoma had announced that it would unveil Baker Mayfield’s Heisman statue during the spring game.

“These last few spring games have been tremendous just with the way our fans have responded, the way our administration’s responded,” Riley said Monday. “We’ve done obviously a lot of new things, making the game more of a true game format, we added all kinds of entertainment, we had the night game last year, which, obviously we’re getting ready to have another great 5 o’clock kickoff. So it’s really become a tremendous event for fans, recruits, our team, everybody, and that’s a tradition we want to continue and even further, to highlight the festivities of this weekend.”

Last spring, assistant Shane Beamer said of spring game day, “Other than the two hours during the game, the recruiting is the priority.”

There is gamesmanship to consider here, too, which is why it matters that the Big 12 Conference has agreed to — as a group — suspend everything from practices to recruiting until March 29. If one school is hosting recruits and another isn’t, or one school is practicing and another isn’t, that could be an advantage. And we all know how college football coaches search every nook and cranny for every advantage imaginable.

“We certainly understand that any one of the member institutions can take further steps and make changes that they feel are possible or germane to their own campus community,” Castiglione said. “But when we had our own thorough conversations earlier today and voted to take those steps, we had agreed that it was best to move forward in unison. As I mentioned at the start of this call, things can change hour to hour and certainly can change day to day in the weeks ahead, but at the time we had the conversation, that’s the way we voted so we would all have some level of consistency.”

Will that unity continue after March 29? Texas’ spring game, for example, is scheduled for April 25, one week after Oklahoma’s. Given how much the Red River rivals recruit against one another — and often host the same recruits — it’s safe to assume neither school wants to cancel its spring game without knowing that the other is doing the same.

Of course, compared with the COVID-19 pandemic, things like college football are small potatoes.

Asked about the economic impact of all the cancellations, Castiglione said, “It stands to reason there will be an economic impact at some level. We know that. I can promise you that was not part of any of our decision-making.”


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