NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The final Presidential Debate is taking over all aspects of Belmont’s campus including the Athletic facilities. News 2 caught up with Belmont Athletic Director Scott Corley to talk about the impact of the Debate on athletics and recruiting. Also, with the NCAA Basketball season tipping off on November 25, Corley discussed last-minute scheduling, playing with no fans and the prospect of a March Madness bubble.
Emily Proud, News 2 Sports Anchor: This is going to be the first debate on the Rick Byrd court, how has that changed the way you do things?
Belmont Athletic Director Scott Corley: First off, it’s a great opportunity for the university and we want to be good partners with the university and fully excited about all that it brings, but from an athletic standpoint, it’s a challenge. They kind of have to take over the Curb Event Center and all the facilities that we use, so you just have to get creative. We had to move our weight room down to a different part of campus. We’ve had to get creative with how the basketball teams will practice, things like that. Fortunately, we’ve got great coaches who understand that’s part of it and our student athletes are understanding because they know what it means to the university. It definitely adds another wrinkle in a COVID environment, but that is something that is a little challenging. Nothing insurmountable, so it’s been good.
You said you moved the weight room, that sounds easier said than done, where is it now?
Corley: We moved it down to our sports science area and Matt Frederick our director of sports performance, he just took it upon himself to really get a bunch of people and get the stuff moved over there and it actually freed up some space for us near our athletic training area to do some testing with the COVID stuff, so it kind of worked out pretty well. Right now we’re all out of that area. Anything in the Curb, even our offices, we’re now working out of home, so all those things obviously we’ll get back to campus on Monday and then it will get back to normal. That’s the beauty of things, i’ts just temporary.
In any other world being told to leave the complex and go work from home, you’d be like, “how are we supposed to do this?” How much did the pandemic and having to try and figure out how to do everything virtually ahead of time prepare you for something like this?
Corley: That’s a great point, I wasn’t nervous at all because we had been through it and we understand what that feels like and so I wasn’t concerned at all. We’ve had to be much more intentional with communication and even when we’re all in the office, we’re encouraged to do virtual meetings and things like that. So, it’ll be good to get back. It is much more efficient when we can all be in the office masking and socially distancing of course.
A lot of people across the country who maybe have never heard of Belmont University are introduced to them in March, but how much can something like this help your athletic department grow as far as putting you on the map?
Corley: It’s just so many eyeballs watching this event and it’s always good getting Belmont University out there, the city of Nashville. It’s a great opportunity to let people know what we have here in Nashville. There are a lot of international eyes, so that can’t hurt in some aspects, in various sports. We are recruiting internationally, so those types of things never hurt when you can get your name out there and it just reinforces just the growth and the growth mindset that Belmont has and that’s also evident in Athletics with new practice facility that we’re building.
Last time we spoke, you said something along the lines of you were thanking your lucky stars you didn’t have to deal with football, well you can’t get out of basketball season. How are preparations going for starting that up in the next couple of weeks?
Corley: Certainly no plans to pass on basketball. It’s going good, I do like the fact that the NCAA, Dan Gavvit (NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball) and the team made the decision we’re going to start on this date – November 25th. It was good to know when we found out. Obviously, that lead to some scheduling challenges, just figuring out because we had planned on starting on November 10th and there’s a number of games you have to look at and figure out how we can fit them in. We had to look at scheduling from a conference standpoint. What are we going to do if we’re going to do anything differently? And so I think everybody’s well on track. Obviously a couple of the huge issues that we all have to figure out at our level is testing. The NCAA came out recently and said with basketball being an indoor sport and a high-contact sport, we’re going to have to test three times a week. That was different than what we were planning on and so you got to figure out how, where, costs and things like that for testing and then just other things. What’s the venue layout going to be? What’s the city of Nashville going to allow from an attendance perspective? So those things are certainly right in front of us now. When we last spoke, that was a ways away, but now it’s right in front of us and we have to get our act together because potentially in five weeks we’re tipping it off. So that puts a little urgency to it, but I think we’re in good shape.
The NCAA wanted to move that date to November 25 to help schools like Belmont who are sending kinds home around Thanksgiving. How much does it help to get the general student body off campus when you’re trying to start a very unique basketball season?
Corley: That’s a great question. I struggle with how to answer that because in some ways the risk is between now and November 25th when the students are on campus. I understand the logic of it, it makes it sound easier, and in a lot of ways it is don’t get me wrong, but when you think about the actual games in venue there aren’t going to be big crowds anyway, so to not have the students there will be disappointing to start, but also understand it. But really I’m more concerned between now and when tip-off happens because we know we can’t keep these kids in a bubble. They go to class, they do things that normal students try to do and want to do and so we’ve tried to be very diligent to be smart to get us to November 25th. Now, when we get there, it’s certainly going to be safer, easier and all of those good things and hopefully when students come back on campus we’re in a different spot with COVID and we can get the students back in and add to the environment.
Alright I heard it. You said the “b” word – bubble. What do you think about the prospect of an NCAA tournament in a bubble?
Corley: I think if you’re going to do a bubble that’s the only place you could do it and it can probably only be done at the Final Four in some aspects, and there’s so much logistics that go into it. You’ve got people traveling from all over the place. You’ve got officials. You’ve got the game crew. You talk about bubble. I just don’t see how you can have an NBA-type bubble except maybe for the Final Four and even then, you almost would have to… I guess you could do it, but how early would they need to get there to make sure that they’re safe and in the bubble and all those good things? I know where there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ve got to have an NCAA tournament. I think everybody acknowledges that for the benefit of the NCAA from a financial perspective and just to go two years without the Final Four would be just detrimental to so many of us.
Is there a fear that the Power 5 conferences could leave you guys out and do their own thing like we’ve seen in football with the conference-only schedules? Or, does it feel pretty solid that they’ll play some of those money games?
Corley: I think they’ll play some. Now, the money games, the definition of that’s changed, it’s not quite the money that we’re accustomed to, Certainly they’re going to take care of themselves and their conference needs first just like in some ways we try to do, but yeah, that dynamic is a little nervous. It can make you a little nervous, but I think where we are as mid-major, I still think we are a game that a lot of these schools will want to play because of where we rank in the NET and things like that. In a normal year, they’ll want to keep Belmont on their schedule and it ends up if they can beat us, it can be a really good win and if we end up upsetting them, it’s not the worst loss that you can have. So we’ll see. Time will tell. All of this is so fluid. A couple of our bigger games we are not going to play and that’s OK this year. We’ll be OK and I think we’re still going to have a really good schedule, it’s just going to be different.
I saw somebody suggest a moderator for the debate, Rick Byrd. A guy who’s pretty solid on that court and knows how to manage. What do you think about Rick Byrd possibly being the moderator for the debate? I don’t know if you have any sway, but would you like to see that?
Corley: Anything Rick Byrd gets involved in, it’s done well and it’s a class act, but I’m not sure even he could keep those two in check. I think he would have to get a little louder with his voice, he’d have to get in that game mode voice.