Gary Barta: Hawkeye staff monitoring coronavirus news, but not changing tournament travel
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa is concluding one of its most successful winter sports seasons ever against the backdrop of the spreading coronavirus scare.
But Hawkeye teams that are scheduled to compete in NCAA tournaments in men’s and women’s basketball and wrestling are still proceeding as if those events will take place, athletic director Gary Barta said Tuesday.
“You’re just preparing for any possibility, but not panicking,” Barta said. “We’re going to do what’s safe and best.”
“It's business as usual as far as I'm concerned,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said of his team’s preparations to compete in the Big Ten Conference Tournament starting Thursday.
Barta said the athletic department is following the same protocols that the university has in place, and will continue to do so. So far, that has meant a ban on international travel only. A few Hawkeye coaches had to scrap overseas recruiting trips. The women’s golf team had to back out of a tournament in Mexico, replacing it with one in Las Vegas.
“Every day we know where our teams are traveling, and if there are issues in those communities, having a conversation about whether or not to go,” Barta said.
More on the Coronavirus:
- The latest: Officials announce 5 new cases, bringing Iowa's total to 13
- Iowa's public universities told to prep for online classes
- Gov. Reynolds: Dozens of Iowans traveled on cruise ships linked to coronavirus cases
- Grinnell College cancels in-person classes, instructs students to leave campus
He said he has heard no talk about altering or cancelling the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, or any of the NCAA events.
Barta also said he has not had a fan or Hawkeye athlete approach him with concerns related to the coronavirus.
All Iowa athletes were invited to attend an informational session on the virus Wednesday evening, where medical experts will relay the latest information.
Iowa athletes and sports staff members have been advised to look to a university web site for the latest information about campus protocols and also what the Centers for Disease Control and Iowa Department of Public Health are recommending.
The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team is set to vie for a national title next weekend in Minneapolis.
The men’s basketball team will learn Sunday which of eight cities they will be sent to for the beginning NCAA Tournament play.
The women’s basketball team will find out Monday if it is selected to host first- and second-round NCAA games. Barta said he has received no mandate about precautions that would need to be implemented at Carver-Hawkeye Arena if that were the case.
“If they did, we would react accordingly,” he said.
Among the possibilities are playing tournament games in arenas empty of fans. That was the recommendation from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for his state Tuesday.
“At the end of the day, athletics isn’t going to be making those types of decisions. It’s going to come at a much more informed level. But we’re ready in the athletic department to manage wherever it goes,” Barta said.
Barta traveled with the women’s basketball team to the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis last week. He said athletes followed the recommended precautions of washing their hands frequently, trying not to touch their faces, and disinfecting surfaces around them.
That’s the approach he plans to take Wednesday when he goes back to Indianapolis with the men’s team.
“Our whole world is trying to figure out where this is going,” Barta said.
“We’re going to do what’s the best and the safest thing to do.”
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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