The COVID-19 pandemic has caused mass hysteria in the sports world, from the NCAA canceling all winter and spring sports to professional leagues suspending season indefinitely. While the players and fans are affected in their own ways, those in athletic communications have taken a hit of their own.
A sports information director (SID) has many different responsibilities, as they usually work for specific teams, not a general company like ESPN. These individuals — who typically have degrees in journalism, public relations, marketing or related fields — are responsible for coordinating interviews between the team’s players or coaching staff and the media.
They also prepare game notes and provide stats and storylines for upcoming games or in preparation for awards. The SID might also dabble in the marketing aspect of sports by promoting the team, either for a highly anticipated match-up or to get a specific player nominated for an award.
The sports world wouldn’t turn without these individuals pulling the strings behind the scenes, helping to create the perfect season. But in recent weeks, the COVID-19 virus has evolved from an epidemic to a pandemic, and sports is among the many industries severely affected.
The sports world usually has a lot on its plate from March to June. This year’s March Madness was scheduled to begin on Thursday, Mar. 19, but in light of the pandemic, the NCAA has not only canceled the NCAA tournament but also all remaining NCAA winter/spring sporting events.
In the meantime, the sports world is on standby as the COVID-19 virus runs its course. Kyle Chilton, the media relations director for BYU men’s basketball, had been preparing for BYU’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2015. BYU was coming off a historic regular season, finishing the season ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2011, falling in at No. 18, giving the team an NCAA berth and the communications staff a longer working season.
Despite a disappointing end to one of the best BYU basketball seasons in recent memory, Chilton remains optimistic.
“I went from getting ready for what would hopefully have been a long NCAA Tournament run and all of the business and excitement that comes with that to now recapping what was a great season that ended too early,” Chilton said. “We’re having to get creative in figuring out how to function as a staff as we all work from home, but I think we’ve adjusted well.”
Chilton said that while he has already been working from home for the past week, BYU’s athletic department officially shut down all facilities for two weeks on Mar. 18, which means any meeting or conferences will have to be done remotely.
BYU’s sporting events schedule is relatively unknown as of now. Sporting events could pick up with BYU’s annual football media day that is held each summer, typically in June, or could begin with football’s fall camp in August.
The COVID-19 virus has also affected students who intern as SIDs. These students get to experience what full-time SIDs do for smaller sports. Senior Katherine Carling’s internship with BYU athletics got cut short after the virus turned into a pandemic, but she still feels like she’s accomplished her goals.
“I’ve been working here for two years, so luckily I’ve been able to meet most of my goals,” Carling said. “But I had two feature stories in the works and now they won’t be released due to the shutdown and because we can’t get photoshoots done.”
Carling said that while it has been rough having everything shut down abruptly, the interns can easily finish their work from home. Both Chilton and the interns are now working on getting recaps out for each sport since all of the winter/spring seasons were canceled.
While Chilton recaps a bigger sport like men’s basketball, Carling is tasked with summing up the men’s tennis season even though the team had over a month of play left on its schedule.
The sports world may have come crashing down on itself, but the SIDs still have work to do in closing out the old and looking forward to the new. No one knows how long COVID-19 will wreak havoc, but those in BYU athletics will still be working and preparing for the new wave of sports with the hope that the sports world will soon be up and running.