COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M’s power wielders figure Reed Arena could use an upgrade — providing a decent view of the court from the concourse, for instance — and a plan was beginning to take shape for the Aggies’ 22-year-old basketball home before the spread of the new coronavirus.
Ross Bjork, who will enter his second year as A&M’s athletic director this summer, has opted for optimism in a tough time for college athletics and everything else when addressing long-range plans for potential renovations on the west side of campus.
“We want to continue studying and analyzing potential plans, and figuring out what the possibilities are,” Bjork said, regarding for Reed Arena in particular. “This (slowdown) gives us more time to analyze and make sure we get it right, versus rushing into something. And we can still plan internally.”
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Bjork said in an ideal world, the methods used to combat the virus will lead to a resumption of normalcy by this summer — but he also must be careful because of the unknown.
“In terms of the financial picture and things like that, we’re going to have to pause until we know what the new normal looks like when we get back up and running,” Bjork said.
Bjork is like every other college football fan, only with much more at stake financially: He’s crossing his fingers there will be a season in 2020.
“Our job is to be optimistic and be positive, and we have to plan that we’re going to open the season on Sept. 5,” Bjork said of the Aggies’ scheduled opener against Abilene Christian. “Hopefully this containment (of the virus) is going to work, and we need to trust our medical experts and be positive. (Trust) that we’re going to play football, we’re going to have full stadiums and we will get back to normal.
“But in reality, you’ve also got to have ‘what-if’ plans and contingency plans while at the same time providing hope. That’s the cool thing about athletics, hopefully we’ll be a rallying point for people. You have to balance your optimism and realism.”
A&M football’s spring drills were supposed to start this week, and the spring game scheduled for April 18 has been wiped off the slate. All Southeastern Conference athletics activities have been canceled for this school year.
In Bjork’s best-case scenario, the A&M football team — along with programs across the country — will report back for duty within a couple of months and begin making up what the players missed out on in the spring.
“There needs to be some acclimation periods (if possible) in May, June, July,” Bjork said during a teleconference with media members this week. “It doesn’t need to be a full-on spring practice, more of an NFL mini-camp style, with very little contact, if any. Maybe helmets and shorts. There needs to be some sort of prep period during that time.
“Those are the things being discussed.”
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Coach Jimbo Fisher, 17-9 in his first two seasons at A&M, said he’s making plans for the late spring and summer — and then coming up with alternate approaches to those.
“You’ve got have multiple plans,” Fisher told 12th Man TV this week. “It’s a lot of work, but at the same time, if you’re not prepared … we’re all in unknown times, none of us have ever experienced anything like this.”
Fisher added when the sport returns — whenever that is — it should serve to unify a country in need of it.
“Football is the sport of America,” Fisher said. “And it’s definitely the sport of Texas. … We’ve just got to take advantage of it when we get back and do things the right way.”
In addition, this week Bjork said he expects no changes at the tops of his coaching staffs entering the summer and fall. Bjork succeeded Scott Woodward as A&M’s athletic director last summer, moving from the same position at the University of Mississippi.
“We don’t anticipate any changes or anything radical,” Bjork said of his roster of coaches. “We need to get through this together, and I believe we have great leaders. We want to support them, and let’s get back on the fields and courts and tracks in 2020 and 2021.”