Jim Sterk Eliah Drinkwitz pose for a photo with a football jersey

Director of Athletics Jim Sterk and head coach Eliah Drinkwitz pose for a photo during the 36-year-old’s introductory press conference Dec. 10. The Tigers’ spring pra{span}c{/span}ti{span}ces have been suspended as of Friday as a result of the {span}c{/span}oronavirus outbreak.{/span}

Missouri football joined the rest of the sports world Friday.

The Tigers’ fourth practice of spring camp was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. but was called off. After a conference call between Southeastern Conference athletic directors Friday, the conference suspended all organized team activities including games, practices and meetings for all sports until April 15 to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

“It (was) just a continuation of yesterday of where things were evolving and more cases were developing,” MU Athletic Director Jim Sterk said. “In Florida, there are more cases that have popped up and I think (we need to be) continuing to go down the road of what we can do to keep our student-athletes safe and the public safe as well.”

Sterk had to break the news to first-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who has only had three of the scheduled 15 spring practices with his new team, that the rest of camp would be suspended. Sterk told Drinkwitz that he believed the team’s remaining spring practices and spring game, originally scheduled for April 11, will be able to be rescheduled. That would give Drinkwitz time to develop Missouri’s new offense and continue building his new team.

“What we tried to assure him today is that you’re not going to lose that practice,” Sterk said. “At some point in time, in my mind, you’ll be able to make up those days to make up any loss over the next few weeks.”

However, there is no timeline for those events to be rescheduled and a final decision hasn’t been made as of Friday.

“I think that’s all on a master list of things that are going to be decided at some point in time, but right now we’re dealing with the here and now and we’ll continue to do that and then those decisions will be made later,” Sterk said.

Before the SEC’s measures, all NCAA winter and spring championships were canceled Thursday.

That doesn’t mean spring sports are officially over. Sterk said SEC athletic directors will participate in a daily call to catch up with each other and discuss further actions to limit the spread of the virus. Spring teams have a glimmer of hope this season as the SEC plans to reevaluate seasons around the April 15 mark, after which the suspension for sports could be lifted, with the possibility of seasons restarting at some point.

If that’s the case, spring teams will resume their season April 15 with regular season games and practices, but with no NCAA championships. Recent signals don’t point to that possibility as being promising. The UM system, that includes the University of Missouri, went to solely remote classes for the rest of the 2020 Spring semester Friday evening.

“If it’s only a week, I would say no,” Sterk said. “But if it can be substantial enough, then I would say, yeah, then it’s worth salvaging ... I don’t know at what point where you decide that it’s not going to happen, but already the championships the NCAA has taken away those championships so if I was to guess that’s probably where things are headed.”

In light of the suspension of spring sports and the cancellation of winter and spring championships by the NCAA, the organization sent out a statement that it agreed spring athletes should be given an extra season of eligibility. That is not a final decision, however. Teams could go over scholarship limits with seniors returning for an extra year combining with incoming freshmen.

“It’s a complicated decision,” Sterk said. “It’s not just deciding that these student-athletes can come. Then there’s going to be repercussions on the size of your squad. What are you able to do as far as the number of scholarships? All of those things would have to be decided before a carte blanche decision like that is made.”

Missouri asked the NCAA about the status of postseason bans for the baseball and softball teams in light of this season’s cancellations, but Sterk said they haven’t been provided a response yet but will get one at an appropriate time. Sterk believes the ban should not carry over into next season.

“I think it is appropriate that as we look at the penalty, it’s for the 2020 season,” Sterk said. “So that’s what we think should happen.”

The NCAA also enacted a dead period Friday that is effective immediately until April 15. During that time, no in-person recruiting is allowed, though text messages and phone calls are still permissible. Teams will not be able to schedule official or unofficial visits during that time.

Those restrictions didn’t stop Missouri from getting a football recruit. Tyler Macon, a three-star quarterback from East St. Louis, committed to the Tigers on Friday. Macon was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 2019 Offensive Player of the Year and had an Illinois state record of 56 touchdowns as a junior. He is rated as the No. 14 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2021 by Rivals.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Assistant Sports Editor, spring 2020. Studying Print and Digital Journalism. Reach me at awkimball@missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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