Given the team meetings for Colorado’s athletic programs currently can only be held virtually, gauging reactions is a little more problematic. Particularly when the bulk of the team has the mute button in play.
Nevertheless, the still, silent little profile boxes staring back at Jesse Mahoney when he delivered the bad news earlier this week said everything. Like their peers across CU athletics, Mahoney’s volleyball team had been bracing for the news that landed on Tuesday, when the Pac-12 announced it was postponing the entire fall sports schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eyeing a return to play in 2021.
Expecting the news didn’t make it any less disappointing for the Buffaloes, who are hoping the move might lead to a more complete schedule than what was in store for the fall. The Pac-12 already had canceled all fall nonconference games last month.
“There are a lot of mute signs when we have our talks, but we’ve been talking about different scenarios since March and April,” Mahoney said. “And in the last several weeks, as things have been coming down to the wire, we’ve been preparing our athletes for this as a possibility. I think our players, they want to play. They also want to have a very good, competitive experience. Our upperclassmen who are towards the end of their career, they want to make sure they have a good, competitive experience not just in the Pac-12 but nationally, competing for championships.
“For some of them, the opportunity to play a little bit more of a full season, maybe a more meaningful season this upcoming spring, was maybe a relief. I know all of them are looking forward to getting back on the court together.”
Like the rest of CU’s fall sports programs, Mahoney’s club will regroup while awaiting word from the NCAA what the revamped workout and preseason calendar will look like. Then there will be the matter of scheduling games. Delaying the fall seasons until at least January might open the door for some sort of nonconference schedule, but during a media session with CU coaches earlier this week Mahoney said he wouldn’t be thrilled about weekend pod-type setting in which the Buffs would play multiple matches during a relatively short window.
“We do a version of that I guess in the traditional (nonconference schedule) but I think everyone is kind of going away from that model,” Mahoney said. “I think it’s hard on our student-athletes’ bodies, quite frankly, playing that many high-level matches in such a short amount of time. Off the top of my head, that’s not something that I’d be that excited about. We have a lot of time in the spring and hopefully we’ll have the ability to play a full, competitive season and hopefully with a version of a preseason, and hopefully with a national championship tournament to follow.”
Another potential unintended consequence of this week’s decision by the Pac-12 will be a crunch on court time in various athletic departments. Given the men’s and women’s basketball seasons also have been pushed to January, CU could have three teams vying for court time simultaneously. Practice time shouldn’t be a major issue, but the Buffs’ basketball teams and volleyball teams typically have their competitions overlap only briefly for a few weeks in November.
Come January, all three programs might be juggling homestands at the Events Center for months. Of course, if it comes to that, any scheduling conflicts will be a welcome problem to deal with if all the teams are embarking on a bona fide schedule.
“The facilities really are going to be an issue everywhere as we jam sports into the same season,” Mahoney said. “The nice thing about the Events Center is we have three gyms and we have three court sports. So there’s always going to be a place for one of us to practice. Competition I think will be something that has to be managed, but I’m sure that we can manage it. Our staffs get along really well and I know our administration will do a good job of managing that as well.”