LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- In his latest update to the University of Louisville Athletics Association (ULAA) board of directors and the media Friday, Vince Tyra indicated that there is growing optimism that the 2020 college football season will kick off on time.
UofL's vice president/director of athletics cited an anticipated move by the NCAA next week as a promising sign that the Cardinals will be able to play NC State on Sept. 3 in Cardinal Stadium as scheduled.
On Thursday the NCAA football oversight committee finalized a plan for an extended preseason that would include an additional two weeks for teams to hold walk-throughs.
With the pandemic wiping out all but seven days of spring practice for UofL and all of it for most other teams, and also shortening the time period for on-campus summer activities such as weight/conditioning programs and film studies that are just now getting underway, the plan will help make up for the lost preparation time.
The proposal is expected to be approved by the NCAA Division I Council on Tuesday during its meeting at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.
Oversight Committee Chairman Shane Lyons, the AD at West Virginia, told the Associated Press that a few last-minute tweaks were made Thursday. The final version permits teams to conduct a maximum six hours of unpadded walk-throughs per week while also requiring two days off for the players.
The additional two weeks of walk-throughs, weight training, conditioning and film study will be limited to 20 hours per week and can begin 14 days prior to the start of the normal 29-day preseason practice.
Most major college football teams are set to open their seasons Labor Day weekend, with a handful starting on Aug. 29.
"I think it's an indication that football is going to hopefully start on time," Trya said in reference to the NCAA proposal. "That's what we're all planning for. There will be more coming from the football oversight committee that I'm sure will flip the switch somewhat on some of our plans and dates. And we're prepared to do it."
But there are still many uncertainties, the biggest of which is whether fans will be allowed in the stadium for games, and if so how many. The size of the crowds will have a significant impact on UofL's revenue.
Tyra told the ULAA board that the athletics department expects to finish the current fiscal year on June 30 with a surplus of about $4 million, and it will likely need more than that -- maybe much more -- to meet next year's budget.
ULAA's finance committee approved a $95.1 million budget submitted by Tyra for the 2020-21 fiscal year, a figure that was earlier sliced 15 percent, from around $104 million, due to anticipated declines in season ticket sales for football and men's basketball and known shortfalls in other areas.
"It's hard to know what's going to occur when we get into the year, but we tried to take a number of things into account," Tyra said. "And depending how well we're able to mitigate the COVID virus and how resocialization plays out over the next 60 days, that will dictate how our budget will look. That's hard to speculate too much when we don't know what we're facing. This is like no other year I've every entered, knowing that the budget won't look anything like what the projection looks like very soon. We only have so many levers on the revenue side, and football and men's basketball are two of those."
Tyra said UofL is "in a good spot" with season ticket sales for football. Last year the school had approximately 40,000 season ticket holders. This year Tyra indicated he would be pleased, though not satisfied, with far fewer than that.
"Monday is the deadline and it's amazing how many renewals and checks came flying in the last week," he said. "We're tracking nicely; it jumped significantly in the last 7 to 10 days in terms of renewals. I'd love to see us get north of 30,000, maybe even get into the 35,000 range, but we'll see. I didn't expect it to hit 40,000 based on COVID, so we backed off on season tickets and we're tracking about where we forecast. It's just a question of whether capacity is going to allow that."
Tyra said the COVID-19 pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the momentum UofL athletics had generated during 2019-20 before things came to a screeching halt in mid-March.
"We were hitting on all cylinders," he said. "We were really having a great year in many ways, including in competition. It's really unfortunate the year is coming to a close the way it is because of all that's going on with the COVID."
CARDS LAND CLASS OF '21 POINT GUARD
It took awhile, but UofL basketball coach Chris Mack finally got his second commitment in the 2021 class this week when 6-foot-1 point guard chose the Cards over Virginia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Pettiford, from Creedmoor, N.C., is listed as a 4-star prospect by 247 Sports. Small forward Bryce Hopkins, a Top-50 recruit, became UofL's first 2021 pledge seven months ago.
Pettiford averaged 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds per game for South Granville High School this past season. As a junior, he averaged 21.8 ppg, 7.4 apg, 6.0 rpg and 2.9 steals.
He could conceivably be the Cards' starting point guard for the 2021 season. There are two point guards on the 2020-21 roster -- grad transfer Carlik Jones and sophomore David Johnson. Jones has only one season of eligibility, of course, and Johnson is an NBA prospect who could leave after next season.
BRITTON DRAFTED BY JAYS
Junior Zach Britton became the third UofL player to be selected in this year's Major League Baseball Amateur Draft Thursday night when he was taken in the fifth and final round at 136th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Britton, a Batesville, Ind., native who split his time between the outfield, catcher and designated hitter, hit .280 with 24 doubles and 60 RBI while appearing in 110 games during his career. He started all 17 games this past spring, batting .322 with a Division I-leading 11 doubles.
Miller's slot guarantees up to a $410,000 signing bonus. Pitchers Reid Detmers and Bobby Miller were both first-round picks on Wednesday.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.