CU Buffs’ JR Payne remains positive through disappointment

Colorado women’s basketball coach surprised by Pac-12 postponement of season

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
The Colorado women’s basketball team will not see game action until January of 2021 after the Pac-12 Conference announced all athletic competition for its member schools will be postponed until then.

Even as the Pac-12 Conference announced its revised, conference-only football schedule on July 31, there was the real possibility that the season wouldn’t be played.

Pac-12 leaders made it official on Tuesday by announcing that fall sports won’t be played until after Jan. 1, at least. The decision that basketball was also being pushed back came as a surprise, however.

CU men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle said this week that the announcement left him with “shock and disbelief,” and women’s basketball coach JR Payne felt the same.

“I echo Tad’s feelings,” she said. “Maybe the day before we heard some sort of rumors and chatter about it, but … we haven’t heard anything from the Pac-12 that this might include us.”

Unfortunately for CU and all Pac-12 teams, it did include them, but Payne brought her trademark optimism to a virtual press conference this week.

“For those who know me, I’m very positive pretty much all the time, even through these difficult times so we’re just taking it one day at a time,” she said. “We just we have to create a new plan.”

What that plan looks like isn’t known at the time. While a few other conferences have postponed fall sports, the Pac-12 is the only major conference to include basketball in its postponement. It’s possible that the rest of the country starts in November, as usual, while the Pac-12 waits a couple months.

“We have a preseason schedule that’s set,” Payne said. “If those teams are going to play as planned, then obviously we would have to adjust the games that we have with them, so it probably would be a condensed version (of the season). Perhaps we could pick up more local games if we were dropped by some of the teams that were continuing to play.”

For now, that’s all speculation and Payne can’t control how the schedule will look. What she can control is how the Buffs respond to the hand they’ve been dealt.

“In one sense, we’ve been given back our entire offseason that we lost when postseason play was canceled last March,” she said. “That’s an important time, especially for our program. We love to be able to put on weight, get stronger. We have a lot of young players that are important pieces to our puzzle, so we’ll continue to work and be ready.

“It’s important for us to stay positive and have sort of tangible things that we can work towards, and focus on what we can control.”