Saturday, April 13, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: When local college sports return, prepare to watch from afar

| May 20, 2020 1:13 AM

Will we see college sports around here in the fall?

Good question.

There are several different answers, depending on which school and which sport you might be referencing — but one response that continues to loom over is the whole situation would be…

Who knows?

If we start with Gonzaga, and what might be the nation’s No. 1 team in preseason basketball rankings, things actually look pretty decent.

Unless you were hoping to watch from the stands, obviously.

That’s out.

The university has made clear that it intends to have students on campus for the semester beginning in late August, which — assuming the coronavirus doesn’t change things — would represent a safe trip over the first hurdle.

The Zags also would need their brethren in the West Coast Conference to be holding classes on campus, as well, and that seems entirely possible.

All but BYU and San Francisco have indicated publicly that they plan to switch from current online studies to in-person classes for the fall.

EVEN THE two holdouts haven’t said no — only that they intend to delay any announcement until more facts are available in the next month or so.

Neither BYU nor USF, however, is in a position to give up large chunks of revenue, so if you had to bet…

Go with the notion that the WCC will be intact and competing (without fans) in most sports this fall.

The Zags should be able to cobble together a full schedule, although their prime-time date with Tennessee at New York’s Madison Square Garden might have to be replaced with a regional match-up.

A bigger issue is making sure the entire projected squad turns up intact.

AD Mike Roth already has mentioned that there’s a challenge getting all the school’s international players back to Spokane — at a time when borders are tight.

Then there are the freshmen, one of the most exciting groups in school history.

We can probably count on Dominick Harris and Julian Strawther showing up on campus, but what about projected point guard Jalen Suggs?

The No. 4-ranked overall recruit in the class of 2020 (and highest ever for Gonzaga), Suggs fell in love with the atmosphere when he came to campus last season, and even though he is likely headed to the NBA after one year, Suggs could be the key to a possible Final Four run.

The problem is that a lot of the excitement Suggs experienced in his visits won’t be present in The Kennel — at least not anytime soon.

Suggs is still on the radar of the NBA’s G League developmental program, where he could receive around $125,000 for the year — and get specific training to be a pro.

That option may look more attractive with the Gonzaga campus in the grip of social distancing, and the McCarthey Athletic Center almost completely deserted on game nights.

Remember, too, that current Zags Corey Kispert, Filip Petrusev and Joel Ayayi filed for the NBA draft.

Most people expected them to return, but that was before the pandemic.

Pro contracts in Europe or the G League’s pathway program remain possible for all three, so Coach Mark Few has no real certainty — not at this moment — over whom he’s going to find at practice this summer.

MEANWHILE, things at Washington State and Idaho are even murkier.

Yes, the Cougs conceivably could stitch up a football schedule, but without any game-day revenue in Pullman.

Things are even more puzzling regarding the Pac-12, though, and that would impact all autumn and winter sports at Wazzu.

Unless there is a spectacular about-face in the next month or two, both Cal and UCLA will be holding only a few classes on campus this fall — and thus would be ruled out of any sports competitions.

Can the Cougs (and the rest of the Pac-12) muddle ahead without the two California schools — and maybe even Stanford?

It certainly seems a stretch for football, although perhaps things will have sorted themselves out in time for basketball and other winter sports.

Idaho doesn’t have the same level of investment as Wazzu, but the Vandal program also has California ties (UC Davis, Sacramento State, Cal Poly) and that state’s public university systems have been targeted for online classes almost exclusively in the fall.

The bottom line is that nobody knows how it will all play out, and what happens in California could impact several conferences (Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State might short-circuit the Mountain West if they can’t play football).

The only thing we know for sure is that there will be no spectators at ANY schools for the foreseeable future.

And it’s going to cost these universities a lot of cash.


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press on Wednesdays and Fridays. “Moments, Memories and Madness,” his reminiscences from several decades as a sports journalist, runs each Sunday.

Steve also writes Zags Tracker, a commentary on Gonzaga basketball, once per month during the offseason.