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University of Montana’s Kent Haslam, Bobby Hauck discuss coronavirus impact

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Posted at 6:39 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 12:33:47-04

MISSOULA -- On Wednesday morning the University of Montana held a media Q&A phone conference with athletic director Kent Haslam and football coach Bobby Hauck to discuss the state of Griz football and spring sports at the University.

Haslam and Hauck began the call with opening statements concerning the virus and what it's affected thus far.

"I appreciate the chance to get together and answer questions and visit. This certainly is an interesting time, to say the least, for our world and for college athletics," said Haslam.

"Like you guys listening, I've been sitting around a whole bunch," said Hauck. "There's not much to do. I've been fishing a few days and I'm anxious to get back to work at some point."

Below are portions of that interview from March 25.

How strange of a situation is this? Have you ever had a spring or fall football camp cut short because of this?

Hauck: "We had a fall camp where we lost some practices due to the forest fire smoke. That's probably, in terms of the practice component, as close as we can come."

How have you been communicating with the team? Have you been sending them workouts?

Hauck: "Well, unless they've got their own weight room, they've got nowhere to work out. That number on the team is pretty much zero. I mean, there's an unfortunate fact, you don't get strong without lifting heavy weight.

"Every day we can't train, we've got erosion of all the work we've done. We have to take care of school, which is important. We communicate via text and email, but pushups don't replace weight lifting."

What work were you able to get done in the spring before practices were canceled? And what progress did you see?

Hauck: "It's obviously preliminary. We did get 40 percent of our spring ball in, which was great. I thought our guys have a great work ethic for a football team. We had great work when we were out there, I was really, really enthused about it. Obviously, our young players that aren't getting the benefit of the training and the practices are suffering for it."

Have you (Kent Haslam) ever been involved in something like this?

Haslam: "I worked for the Salt Lake Olympic committee and worked the Olympic games in 2002 after 9/11. So that was certainly a very interesting time. Obviously, in September 2001 and then those games came to Salt Lake City in February 2002. There was certainly a lot of talk if the games should continue, can they continue, security. It changed the way everything was done. It changed our daily lives. So, I hate to compare a virus to a terrorist attack on our country, but that's the only similar thing that I can kind of compare it to."

Have you (Haslam) been in contact with other athletic directors to talk about the situation?

Haslam: "Yes, we communicate with other athletic directors constantly. Our Big Sky Conference, we have a couple of AD calls a week where we get together. We have a national organization, our FCS directors association. We have a conference call with NCAA reps on Thursday, there's a lot of exchanging of texts and emails and conference calls. Actually this has really ramped up the communication among athletic directors. The unique thing about this is, it's not isolated to one school, to one place. Everybody in the country is facing the exact same things."

What kind of financial impact has this had on the university?

Haslam: "Softball is really our revenue-generating sport we have in the spring, it's the only one we charge admission to. That's probably about a $10,000-$15,000 revenue source for us.

"So in the grand scheme of things, I never want to dismiss something significant, but obviously this would be far more impactful if this was coming into the fall.

"We do save money on travel, we do save money on our coaches not being out traveling right now, but they are certainly actively recruiting through other means. But they certainly don't cost us as much. The financial impact right now, a good thing that it happened in the spring and there are savings, but we've lost some revenue, as well.

"The consequences come from, how does this limit donors' willingness to commit, to donate and those type of things and they really aren't measurable right now."

What have you guys seen from the ticket renewal standpoint? Have people backed out?

Haslam: "We are right in the middle of our season ticket renewals, we just sent out a notification a couple days ago about extending the deadline. It's put a delay certainly on our paper invoices here for a week or so. We did already begin the online process of ticket renewals. That's (renewal backouts) really had to be seen. ... We have not seen anything right now. That is something certainly that we monitor, but we're kind of entering right into the thick of that right now. Our renewal rates on our suites and club seats have been good, but that's still yet to be seen.

"I'm hopeful that when we get back to gathering, and I'm confident that that will happen, this will pass. I think people will be anxious to gather. I think sports is a great place to facilitate that. I think, speaking just for myself, I miss human interaction. I miss being together with folks and I think that when we get back to normal that that will be a good spot for us to gather."