Return of collegiate athletics will be emotional, says UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — UB Stadium is going to be quiet this fall with the absence football, but fans and student athletes alike will be happy to know the college athletics hiatus won’t last forever. UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt says the school and Mid American Conference have been working hard to ensure the student athletes can return to the field of play safely.

“I’ll be very emotional the first time it’s that kickoff, tipoff in the winter, our young ladies diving into the pool, guys on the wrestling mat, whatever the competition is, whatever they can do to be able to compete against outside competition,” Mark Alnutt said. “We have to do it smart, we have to be mindful for everything that’s out there.

“When you look at all the time that’s been spent in terms of training, preparation, that being pushed back, going to a virtual world, now coming back to be able to do something again, I look forward to that day, I know a lot of us in this office, our fans are looking forward to the day, but more importantly for the student athletes. I know they want that opportunity to be able to play again, and I look forward to affording them that opportunity for them to do that.”

As of right now, the MAC plans to play football in the spring, which would mean UB would be preparing for a cold start to the season. But the option to play spring football also allows for the chance to start practicing in the fall, like the team typically does in the spring.

“We’re putting plans to place that will come public within the next two weeks would be our hope, in regards to the ramp up to the season in the winter, having the opportunity to have fall ball instead of spring ball gives our coaches a flexibility, even giving our athletes the option to put pads on for the first time in a long time,” Alnutt said. “Structuring a season in the spring, we’re excited to structure something that’s going to maximize the experience as much as we can for our student athletes, but also our fans.

“A lot of factors have to happen, we hope that where we are in this COVID-19 pandemic has lessened quite a bit where there is a comfort level for us to compete. We’re hopeful that we have an opportunity, whether it be February, March, April, to allow some fans in UB Stadium to be able to support our Bulls as well.”

As for winter sports, the basketball oversight committees that oversee both men’s and women’s basketball has proposed to delay the start of the season until the end of November or the beginning of December for the safety of the student athletes, coaches and staff.

“They’re taking a proactive stance by doing that. They still feel that delaying it even until the end of November that you can still get a full season in. The reason why I commend them for thinking like that is when you look at the entire NCAA membership, nearly 75-80% of the institutions are going remote come Thanksgiving,” Alnutt said. “We’ll never create a bubble as the NBA or NHL has done, but at least this gives us an opportunity to compete at institutions that don’t have the density as they would with students in there.”

“That gives us an opportunity to get 4, 5, 6 weeks or whatever it may be of competition in before campuses are back. It’s my hope that if something like that happens, by the time late January runs around and campuses are back in operation in person in operations, we’re in a position as a state to allow fans. For me, even if it’s a 25% capacity in Alumni Arena, that’s a win-win.”

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