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Gophers' Mark Coyle expects pandemic will have 'impact' on winter sports schedules

Fall sports have been postponed until the spring.

The Big Ten's unprecedented postponement of all fall sports has been met with optimism from University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle, though through the glass-half-full approach to playing in the springs comes doubt for what could happen with winter sports. 

Speaking with Gopher announcer Mike Grimm, Coyle said he's already expected potential changes to the schedules for winter sports teams, including basketball, hockey, wrestling, swimming and diving, and indoor track and field. 

"Obviously, I do think there will be an impact on those schedules for those sports that will come up next," Coyle said. "We don't know what that impact will look like. Again, we're going to rely on our medical experts to give us the most up-to-date information so we can provide that safe environment."

While winter sports teams wait on pins and needles, fall sports were postponed until the spring by the Big Ten. The decision was particularly confusing for football fans, who just last week were greeted with the Big Ten releasing a 10-game conference schedule that would've seen the Gophers face rivals Wisconsin and Iowa in the first four weeks of the season. 

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren released the schedule with the caveat that there was no guarantee games would be played, but why release the schedule at all if less than a week later the season was put on ice?

"We wanted to provide a schedule for our student-athletes and to our coaches so they could start to prepare for the season, but we also needed to do all that logistical stuff behind the scenes. That's why that schedule was put together," Coyle explained. 

Minnesota opened its football training camp August 7, but just as they were set to transition into padded practices the Big Ten slowed teams down. 

"When we started, there's a two-day period where you just do shorts and t-shirts, you do conditioning and light work, and then you start to put on the helmets and the pads," said Coyle. "As we started to make that transition over the weekend, the Big Ten put out a statement asking people to pause the workouts, so we still had workouts but they were more like walkthroughs, very light in what they were doing."

Coyle said "we still don't have an answer for contact tracing," which led to concerns about how potential COVID-19 outbreaks would be contained across the Big Ten. 

"As we looked at going to the pads we just felt like we needed to hit the pause button and postpone the season until the spring," said Coyle. "It gives us a chance to get more medical information, it gives us a chance to learn from our peers across the Big Ten conference. Our goal is to play a safe season where everybody is healthy and safe for the spring."

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