SWOSU S.I.D., Doug Self, on the status of sports this fall
Updated: Sep 16
By Greydon Buhlig
I had the opportunity to sit down with the Sports Information Director at SWOSU and discuss how COVID-19 has affected the sports world, especially here at Southwestern. He discussed how the administration has been handling things, how the coaches and athletes are affected, and Self left the readers with some positivity and encouraging words on how to push through.
The first question Self answered was really how asking COVID-19 affected his job in the athletics department.
“It has flipped everything upside down. Once football ends, and there is only basketball going on, it is a slow period for us. But once spring sports arrive, it is one of our most hectic times of the year for us,” said Self, “then the summer hits and things really begin to slow down. But when COVID-19 hit, it all stopped.”
This whole ordeal began back in March, when Utah Jazz center, Rudy Gobert, of the NBA, tested positive right before a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The next day, Thursday, March 12, 2020, the sports world stopped. Starting with the NBA season being postponed, Major League Baseball was postponed, then began the NCAA’s canceling of seasons. All spring sports and the NCAA Basketball tournament were canceled indefinitely. This was shocking and no one knew how to handle it. Do they cancel? Do they play without fans? Do they not do anything? Self-mentioned that, “as a person in athletics, we didn’t have a game plan. Usually you have time to prepare, figure out defensive and offensive measures in a game, and we didn’t. We simply can’t fight an invisible opponent.”
When he talked about the Great American Conference postponing the fall season, the biggest reaction, Self said, was from everyone, presidents of the schools, athletic directors, etc., not wanting to tell their student-athletes and coaches that they cannot compete. The NCAA cancelled all fall championships earlier this summer. Then, that is where the conferences came in and decided that they would cancel their fall sports seasons. The GAC was the last division two conference to postpone their fall seasons. This goes to show that throughout the conference, everyone fought extremely hard to find ways to make these things happen.
“You can’t make these types of decisions lightly,” Self said. “Everyone was adamant that we are going to exhaust every resource we can before we say ‘we can’t do it.’ There is still hope to get games played in the spring. The word we are using is suspended, nothing has been cancelled.”
This is huge. This means that the people in power in the GAC and at the schools fought for every opportunity to give the student-athletes and coaches the chance to do what they came to the schools to do. Play their sport. Self said SWOSU's coaching staffs responded very well and that their athletes are taking this time to get better personally and become a family.
Amidst figuring out how to run a college athletics program, SWOSU also hired Todd Helton as the interim Athletic Director and he was really thrown into the fire. He “bleeds Bulldog blue,” Self said. Helton has been here for thirty-six years, as a player, coach, and now as the interim Athletic Director.
“He is everywhere right now. He is still handling compliance and rules with the teams and players, but now is also running the athletic department. There is no one else I would rather have leading us right now,” said Self. “He has shown great leadership to our administration and our staff here. If you see him, give him a pat on the back and just tell him we will get through this.”
Self said right now they are just in a waiting period. Decisions have been made to postpone everything, and now they are just waiting to see how the teams handle the protocols of COVID-19. It also has to do with the student population. In college, a bubble scenario, like the NBA, is not an option. Too many people from too many places are here, which is good, but the athletes are interacting with everyone. The professional associations, the NBA, NFL, and MLB, have the resources, money, to halt that. In college, everyone is with everyone, especially at SWOSU. The GAC and NCAA need to make sure that it is safe for the school's players and fans to be able to compete and spectate in a protected environment.
Considering all that has happened, Self believes it is important to stay positive. This is still a time of uncertainty, and for some, it is a very scary time. Self urges us, encourages us to remain positive, remain safe and be aware of your surroundings.
“Hang in there. The number one thing you can control is your attitude and mindset,” said Self. “If you approach this fall semester to get better academically, or however you approach it, do it with a positive attitude, one day at a time, make your team, yourself, and your school better.”