LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — The recent increase in COVID-19 cases has created concern about the upcoming season but John Calipari hopeful sports will resume this fall.
“My hope is that we tamp down this virus and we're able to come back and play," the Kentucky coach said Tuesday.
The Southeastern Conference postponed the start of fall sports on Tuesday. The league canceled volleyball, soccer, and cross country competition through Aug. 31. The delay includes exhibition and non-conference contests. Despite the delay, Calipari hopes the college basketball season will start on time, but also stresses safety.
“My hope is pretty strong for basketball because I have a really good team,” he said. “I want us to play basketball in the worst way and be an NCAA Tournament team and make a run, but we've got to go with science. We've got to trust that people within that field, within our league, within our schools, and we gotta roll with what they're telling us to do.”
One of the newest weapons in the fight against the coronavirus is a face mask and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order requiring Kentuckians to wear a mask into a business establishment or in a large crowd of people. The mandate is in effect for the next four weeks.
“Our state has done a great job,” he said. “Now we got to turn it up. And it may not matter because there are so many other states that are losing their minds and things are going haywire. But our state, and it's four million of us, let's just protect each other, wear the mask. Everybody says it. It's not a statement. Just wear the mask. It protects you and protects somebody else. I mean, if we do that. Just wear the mask. If you're out (and) if you're in a building. If you're outside walking around, I get it. But if you're in a building, you're in any kind of position where you're around people, put the mask on.”
Even prior to the recent 30-day requirement for wearing masks in Kentucky, Calipari was a strong supporter of sporting a mask in public places.
“When I walked the boardwalk, I'll have the mask with me — I had it in my pocket,” he said. “And now if I go by a group of people, I put the mask on. If I'm walking, I’m by myself and there's no one but the seagulls, I'm not going to put the mask on. If I'm at the beach and we're separated and it's just us, I'll take the mask off. I would tell everybody we got to get through this and unless things start to change – what everybody's hope is – it’s going to be hard to happen.”
Since the pandemic began, Calipari has grown a beard and his hair is noticeably longer, but that could change once he gets with his team on Monday.
“I may shave the beard. I don't know. My wife wants me to shave the beard, which means there's probably little chance I will. The haircut, everybody's on me, ‘You got to cut your hair. Your hair looks (bad).’ That's what you're saying to me, and I'm like, ‘I may not cut my hair for a while.’ I don't know.”
What he does know is that for things to get back on track, people must make sacrifices until a breakthrough is reached.
“Everybody's got to do what they can, but we also got to follow the science,” he said. “(We’ve) gotta follow the science.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.