DeKALB — NIU Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier and Football Head Coach Thomas Hammock addressed the media Saturday in a Zoom conference call regarding the Mid-American Conference’s decision to cancel the fall sports season.
Frazier and NIU President Lisa Freeman had been at the forefront pushing for the MAC to postpone the fall season due to concern of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety of student-athletes and staff over the past month, according to CBS.
Frazier addressed the rumors, saying the leadership in the decision came from MAC schools’ presidents and athletic directors, and praised Freeman’s role and understanding of the situation. He confirmed he was one of the more aggressive voices among MAC leadership pushing for a spring season for fall sports.
“She’s a scientist. She’s a doctor,” Frazier said in the conference. “This is not new for her as far as her ability to understand what a virus is, as well as her access to information, so you gotta respect that. Give her that level of respect; she understands it.”
Frazier added that his own personal experiences and view of the virus and the effect it can have on people led to his advocacy for postponing the fall season until spring.
“I’m a father,” Frazier said. “I’m not going to put my son in harm’s way. I’m certainly not going to put the sons and daughters that I serve out there.”
While football is a passion of Frazier’s, he made it clear that his love for the game did not get in the way of his concern for the health and safety of others.
“We’ve had some people that have caught this and perished,” Frazier said. “It’s real! No one wants to have football and sports more than me. Football gave me all the opportunities I have today, but I can’t do it at the expense of people’s lives. I can’t do that, and I won’t do that. Not on my watch.”
As for the financial concerns of what it takes to test and make sure all of the student-athletes are healthy, Frazier said it was a factor in the decision, but made it clear that it wasn’t about the cost of testing, but rather preventing the possibility of having someone catch the virus.
“Here’s the bottom line: we don’t have a vaccine,” Frazier said. “You can test until the cows come home, but we cannot prevent or stabilize if an individual does have covid. We don’t know all of the effects, long and short-term. I really appreciate the sentiment of the expense and the testing and all that, and Lord knows we’ve gone through a comprehensive review of that, but this comes down to safeguarding.”
As for the ongoing football practices taking place over the past several weeks, Hammock said the team will follow the NCAA’s and MAC’s rules as it continues to move forward. He said he’s been preparing his team over the past week for the possibility of a canceled season, making sure no one on the team would get caught off-guard by the current situation.
“We’ve continuously been transparent in team meetings earlier in the week,” Hammock said in the conference. “Where I spoke to them and Mr. Frazier had a chance to speak to them about some of the scenarios that may come about over the next couple days.”
While the hope for the MAC and NIU is to have the fall sports programs play in the spring, Frazier said talks have begun to take place about what the spring season would look like.
“We’re involved in active communication and modeling on what that would look like and how it would look,” Frazier said. I don’t have a decision on that yet, I’m sorry, but hopefully it is soon and hopefully we can put some of that framework together as a group and move forward.”