PALO ALTO (KPIX) – A normally lucrative season for colleges has disappeared after the Pac-12 announced on Tuesday to halt all sports until at least the beginning of next year because of COVID-19.
“It was tough,” said Stanford University defensive back Treyjohn Butler. “It was really, really tough, I was hoping that we could find a way.”
The vote by the Pac-12 CEO group was unanimous. Their reasons, which they laid out in a released PDF document, were for travel, testing and health concerns brought on by the pandemic.
Butler is part of the Pac-12 unity group of about 400 athletes who were demanding better medical protocols and safer conditions before Tuesday’s decision. Among the demands were support for the student-athletes, including preservation of this year’s eligibility.
Butler is a senior this year, and was eager to get back on the field after leaving last season with injuries.
“I wanted to have my last season on the farm, in front of a great crowd and great family,” he said.
The Pac-12 said scholarships would be guaranteed, and leaders would lobby the NCAA to make sure athletes don’t lose a year of eligibility, especially if they aren’t able to play this season.
“Football is a very essential part of people’s lives, especially these players’ lives,” Butler said. “It was devastating from that standpoint.”
Struggling Palo Alto sports bar owners amid the pandemic were also devastated by the news.
Megan Kawkab, owner and operator of The Patio near Stanford, said she was counting on the football season to help keep her doors open.
“Sports were my next, you know, saving grace,” Kawkab said. “My heart dropped a little bit, I was really sad. We are a sports bar with no sports. We are a bar with no bar. With COVID we’re down at least 35 percent, and then losing sports will probably drop another ten.”
Kelly Gorman, the general manager of Antonio’s Nut House in Palo Alto, said they’re barely making enough money to pay their rent. But, Gorman said, it’s more than just that.
“People need sports. They really do, especially when times are down,” said Gorman. “When you can’t go to the movies, you can’t see your family, can’t see your friends, but sports seems to make America a lot happier.”
Butler said he understands the medical concerns behind the postponement even if he still may be frustrated with the Pac-12 conference for other reasons, including the opinion of the unity group that athletes should be compensated.
“No matter how big or small, we’re all facing this the same way,” said Butler.