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Q&A with Jim Sterk

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Mizzou Director of Athletics Jim Sterk met with local media via Zoom on Thursday afternoon. Read the full transcript of the call here.

Opening Statement

"Thank you all for joining us. We have more information today than we did at the first part of the week. It seems to be changing daily. First, hope you're healthy and sheltering well. I know you've got a lot of questions. We included (Director of Compliance) Andy Humes on here. He read the 23-page Q&A the NCAA sent out last night on the eligibility decision. He has a lot more detail on that. Really thankful that we live in Columbia and we have MU Health Care and all the essential services operating. You may have seen the Hearnes and the arena are the backup for the hospital if needed, but so far the cases have been limited. As I reflect on it, obviously unprecedented times, but we've been going through kind of phases of emotion and reality. First we were reactionary to all the news when we were in Nashville and the tourney being canceled and then moving right now, kind of a stabilizing phase. Last week was spring break for the school and we've been having daily SEC meetings and Greg Sankey's been on calls with the Autonomy Five and the NCAA and then we funnel down through our exec staff meeting on Monday and Wednesdays, our senior staff with head coaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we've got campus and system leadership having conference calls and then just got off a call with our Student Athletic Advisory Council and they had a meeting Monday night and we had them on today just being able to answer more questions that they may have on a variety of things. We're stabilized and functioning, but looking forward the rules on virtual activity were released and so this week the coaches are able to do that and then in person we had a target date to make a decision by 4:15 that's going to the presidents and chancellors of probably extending that later, May 31st or somewhere around there. Camps and clinics we're in discussions on. Some of the things that have been national items like name, image and likeness, we're starting to dig into those and there's a board meeting here at the end of April where that is going to be more decisions coming. So we're moving along and trying to grasp the new reality and try to determine where the new normal will end up. I read something or saw a podcast on something on the impact of 9/11, something like that and how that changed security at airports. We're trying to look at what is going to change, what is our new world going to be like as we come out of this pandemic? I won't shake your hands anymore. That probably won't be kosher to do, but beyond that, what are going to be the new social norms. Just like all of you trying to figure that all out. With that I'll open it up to questions."

At this point, what's the level of concern among athletic directors about potential delays to the football season or other fall sports?

"I think what we're trying to do is prepare for fall. If in person activities are delayed until June 1st, moving back from fall sports, whether it's volleyball, soccer, football, the SEC is getting input from those coaches on what does the buildup look like for those sports to occur? If we need to defer it to June 15th then we'll make accommodations there. If it's July 1st, do that. We're planning on the season happening and I'm just not gonna really get into the speculation phase."

I know it's early but have you projected any kind of revenue losses, not from anything that could be lost but that has been lost this spring?

"Great question. The budget, we're having a call tomorrow. We're getting more information all the time. You saw the NCAA as far as the men's basketball tournament not handing out shares. We just found out earlier this week what that was going to look like and so the conference is working through what that looks like for individual schools. So then we're dialing down, the good thing as far as we don't have a ton of revenue with baseball and softball and those sports in the spring. Most of it's in house already, but there's still expenses. We're not sure where we're at yet, but we're looking at that and trying to project, we're getting budgets, input from our coaches and staff this week actually and starting to do that and look through where we might project next year. At a minimum you've got to project that there's going to be a decrease in donations and ticket sales and things like that. You just don't know where that will be. We'll have some models based on what we think it might be."

I was wondering if there were any talks of maybe cutting salary for some of the higher up personnel in the athletic department. I know some schools have already done that.

"There's some neat things going on and we're taking note from HR. We've asked those questions what we can and can't do and I think Iowa State had something as far as not taking bonuses and things like that. I think there's a lot of good possibilities out there. We haven't decided on anything yet as far as what we're going to do but I think that's forthcoming."

It may be a little too soon for this, but I've seen some ADs speculate they may have to go to state or federal governments to help make up this deficit. What are some contingencies you guys are planning on as far as revenue?

"Those might be from schools that are dependent upon state support and are funded by the state or the University. We do not receive any state support that way so for us, that wouldn't impact us. The University overall is looking, FEMA's asking, I think every state is in a state of disaster so everyone's going to be at that well. They have asked what lost revenue has occurred, what expenses are occurring because of this pandemic so they're going to be collecting that and turning that in. But for us in athletics, it probably wouldn't impact us much."

I know the NCAA made its announcement Monday about spring sport athletes getting some eligibility relief but where are you with helping out the spring sport coaches and any athlete that might get another year?

"I'll let Andy (Humes) take over on the details of that and what we're actually doing, but overall, the quick version of it is is that we're reaching out to those student-athletes, to our coaches, and then getting that input back and we've gotten some from track and field for instance. There's a variety. Some are returning, some want to graduate and move on and a lot of the spring sports are equivalency sports so they're not on full scholarship so they're making those decisions what's best for them. We're in that process. Andy, do you want to add detail to that?"

Humes: "As Jim said, that's what we've asked our coaches and as Jim noted earlier we had a call with our student-athlete representatives, SAAC, just a little bit ago to reiterate that info to them as well. First step is we've got to see which student athletes are interested in coming back and get that. We're in the process of that now. I think generally we had a lot of questions that we've been working through, the SEC primarily, with as different ideas were floated for spring and winter sports, what that all would look like. Last night or evening, I guess, the NCAA issued a question and answer document that was 23 pages so we've gone through that pretty carefully and that's answered a lot of the questions that we've had from coaches and others on how this will be applied in all different aspects. How it affects recruiting, how it affects transfers, so there are still questions that we have moving forward, but that answered a lot of them and can get into any specifics, into our specific questions. I think the general gist of it is pretty well known, but the spring sports, any athlete that used a season of competition, institutions will have the ability to grant a waiver to get that season back. Won't have to go through the normal waiver process, but can just do that locally. Then for all spring student athletes, we will have the ability locally to just offer an extension which would basically give them a sixth year if they needed it to get their four years in. And so that really addresses those spring sports. As far as financial aid, those that were in their last year of eligibility this year, that's where the exception exists. If they elect to come back next year, their aid won't be counted toward their team limits. They're kind of just ghost counters for lack of a better term for a year. That's the main change and I think you're probably aware of that, but then there's a lot of specific questions on what do transfers look like, how does that affect eligibility, how does that affect some other things and that's where that document really helped. There will be a lot of questions to address on future recruiting classes, things like that, but if there are other specific questions, just let me know."

How many student athletes are affected and what's the potential cost?

Humes: "I don't have the chart in front of me but it was potentially, people in their last season of eligibility in spring sports, it was 20-something that are possibilities. The overall impact if everyone that was on aid this year came back next year and were at the same levels of aid, I think it was 463 thousand. That's in this year's dollars. Obviously that would go up, if they were on the same percentage, say 75%, maybe a little bit more next year. Now that's if everyone came back. I don't anticipate that all student athletes will choose to come back. Some will probably choose to move on in their professional careers, but that's the general numbers."

How much are you at the mercy of what universities decide? Some schools have already decided to cancel summer classes. Can you have football practice or a season if regular students can't be on campus?

Sterk: "I think it goes in phases. A lot of schools, some may be canceling, but as far as SEC schools they're going to online classes and so that doesn't necessarily prohibit our campus being open if you will. We'll have to make that decision when we know, the Centers for Disease Control and health officials make that determination along with the University. We do obviously if they University is closed and it's shut down the way it is now and we're sheltering at home, there's not going to be activities. So where that goes from there, we'll have to see."

Is there any sort of conversation within the SEC about having financial support on things that the conference can do to help out?

"That hasn't been a discussion. That's a good question. I need to look at their reserves and see where those are, but no. Good question, but that hasn't been discussed."

In the conversations that you're having is there a targeted date you guys have to look at to have the green light by that time to have a football season?

"I think those are the discussions that are going on now along with medical advice, coaches, physical training staff. Those will be determined I think in the future, but I think all of them feel if they can come back in June that they can have a season. Whether there's mini-camps or some version of a change. For sure there's going to be a change as far as what is allowed in the summer I think. I can see that coming as far as when practices start. I think there will just be a new practice schedule that's developed because of spring practices being canceled. There will be change, I just don't know what it will look like. We don't have a hard and fast date yet."

What was your general reaction to the NCAA decision to grant the extra year of eligibility?

"I think that was the logical decision based on what had occurred and the season had just started and actually outdoor track, I don't even know if they had had a meet yet. They were still working on the indoors. I think that's a fair thing to do. The challenge, some of my peers in the Group of Five, with the NCAA Tournament being canceled, there's a lot of budget, and I guess whatever level, we're all going to be struggling with how our budgets, our new model looks like. We'll be wrestling with those decisions, but I think the investment in the student athlete is a positive thing and that will be a top priority."

I know it’s been a priority for you, just the mental health aspect, especially with your athletes, and this is a really unique situation for them, being an isolated like everybody is but away from teammates and coaches. Just how much of that has been a concern with you? I know it has been for (Assistant AD for mental performance) Scotta (Morton) and them.


“Yeah, actually we’ve really asked them to take the lead on getting maybe a couple emails out. They sent one out with a lot of resources that were listed to our student athletes, and that I think can be really helpful. You know, creating a routine that you go through and making sure you’re productive that day. I haven't had any lack of meetings and things, and I know with the student athletes, with academics and tutors and now the advent of of activities that the coaches can direct during the week, I think it'll help keep that keep that down. But there are people that are struggling, and so we need to make sure that they understand who's there and our coaches are checking up on them, our tutors are checking up on them, academic advisors, and so we have a lot of support for them.”

Jim, I know that a lot of this is hypothetical at this point, but I’m curious of all the topics being discussed if one of them is perhaps if there is some sort of green light to a certain degree of crowd if college football would consider playing without crowds? Could the sport consider that and could it survive doing that if that was the best option?


“Yeah, I think that all things are out there for for speculation and all. I joked with somebody that had 20 season tickets and I told them that they needed to buy 80 so that they could properly social distance in the stadium with their folks. And who knows where we'll be by that time, but I think that's something that we have to be prepared for, and as much as you can, try to make contingencies and see where that all plays out.

Hey, Jim. I was just curious if you knew off the top of your head where cuts would come from first or conversely if there's any areas you know that would be a last resort in terms of cuts from the line items on the Missouri athletics budget?


“It’s a great question. We haven't gotten that far. We're actually just gathering data now and looking at what we can do, and then we'll prioritize those and look at it, but that's for a decision down the road.”

You mentioned that $460 thousand if all the seniors were to return. Is that something that the university could afford?



“Like I said, I think that would be a priority, wo we would need to make it a priority and make it happen. So there would have to be decisions made on other things to make that work.”

I was just wondering if you’ve heard anything from the NCAA about baseball and softball postseason bans?


“Great question. The short answer is no, but there have been some other things that have occurred that's encouraging.”

Humes: “Yeah, I think you’re probably aware, it was in the media today that Georgia Tech found out that their postseason ban in basketball had been fulfilled. I think, in our internal position, as soon as we knew the postseasons weren’t gonna be played was that the penalty was set for spring of 2020. We didn’t compete in the postseason in spring of 2020. So, another thing we saw in that 23 page document that was released by the NCAA yesterday, there was actually a question and answer very similar to our situation involving schools that were required to serve a postseason ban due to APR penalties, and the question was asked in there and answered directly and said that those schools will have met their postseason penalty obligation. Based on those things and our initial position I feel pretty strongly that we've met that condition but we haven't received any communication officially in regards to that.”