Glass grappling with effects of COVID-19 on IU athletics

Fred Glass has found himself at the head of a table before, thinking back Wednesday to when he was the leader of a law firm on Sept. 11, 2001.

Leadership, in that moment, meant showing up to work, showing you weren’t afraid to be there. But in this moment — a moment where COVID-19 has burned “social distancing” into the minds of Americans — the director of Indiana’s athletic department is leading in a different way.

He’s staying home.

“I show leadership by being willing to practice what I preach, which is working remotely,” Glass said.

From his home base, Glass is still grappling with a whirlwind of a week. Just last Wednesday, IU men’s basketball was set to play Nebraska in the opening round of the Big Ten basketball tournament. In the next 24 hours, the conference tournament was canceled, pro sports suspended their seasons, and all NCAA sports, everywhere, were shuttered.

Large institutions like IU game out contingencies for a shutdown, the technical term being a “business continuity plan.” That outlines what essential personnel remains in place, who communicates what to whom, and so forth. But Glass’ message to coaches and senior staff in a Monday meeting didn’t fit that generic guidance.

“Normally in a crisis, I would be strongly encouraging you to show leadership by being at your desk, being ready to go, trying to keep things normal, be present, being available for kids and staff to come talk to you,” Glass said. “But this virus is kind of the exact opposite. I told them to show leadership by going home, social distancing, utilizing technology for connectivity. But I don’t want you in here.

“I think that’s an example of how you prepare for something with one mindset but you have to be nimble because the actuality is different than what you have ever imagined.”

Counteracting the spread of coronavirus has taken a toll on college athletics in ways Glass can’t easily get his arms around. First is the emotional toll, having to tell athletes they can’t compete, they can’t work out as a team, they can’t even step foot in IU’s facilities until at least April 5.

Delivering those messages has been, by far, the hardest part of this process for Glass.

“It was hard to tell kids ‘No, seriously, the weight room is closed, you can’t go in there,'” Glass said. “You can’t go in there on your own, you certainly can’t go in there in a group workout, you can’t go in there in a supervised workout, and oh, by the way, you can’t have a player-led workout in the park, you can’t have a strength and conditioning coach take you to the Y. Everything we’ve always tried to be about, connectivity, group activity, being with each other, leaning on each other, it’s the exact opposite.

“The university understood, fairly early, we need to get the students away from each other as much as possible.”

Much of what IU coaches and athletes can’t do today has been dictated by decision-makers outside of the athletic department. Gyms and dorms were closed by the university. Competitions, recruiting, and team activities were prohibited by the Big Ten. But Glass has been satisfied with the collaborative process that reached these conclusions.

“My wife would tell you my phone is connected to my head,” Glass said. “We’ve had conference call after conference call. I think (new Big Ten commissioner) Kevin Warren has shown great leadership. Kind of a baptism by fire for him, but I think he’s done a great job. I feel like, and I feel like all the athletic directors have felt, we’ve had a voice in that and there’s been a lot of communication with that.”

More than just athletes and coaches have been affected by these cancelations and closures. There are hourly workers, for example, at the Tobias Nutrition Center, who could be hurt financially by lost work hours. Glass said his department is trying to find places where those employees can continue to contribute and earn wages.

Canceled events and lost revenues, especially from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, could also deal a financial blow to IU and other universities. Those losses aren’t quantifiable yet, but Glass and his staff are trying to preemptively “tighten the financial belt” with a hiring freeze, deferring maintenance projects, and eliminating unnecessary purchases.

“While health and safety is our No. 1 priority, we are starting to address some of the financial impacts, which will be significant,” Glass said.

These issues will drag on past Glass’ term as athletic director, because he’s retiring from his post at the end of the academic year. Tuesday, IU President Michael McRobbie appointed deputy AD Scott Dolson to replace Glass.

The outgoing AD will vouch for his eventual successor, who has been a right-hand man for Glass since 2009. In these uncertain times, continuity has its benefits.

“I think we were on the right trajectory and I think Scott will keep us on that trajectory,” Glass said. “Setting the whole coronavirus aside, issues about governance, name, image, and likeliness, finances, those are major challenges Scott is well-positioned to address because he’s been addressing them at the Power 5, Big Ten, and IU levels.”

A firm date for the baton pass from Glass to Dolson hasn’t been set, though Glass figures it would make sense for Dolson to assume his new title on July 1, the start of the fiscal year. Glass intends to stay on through much of August, helping to ease the transition.

There are many months ahead for Glass and Dolson, together, to try and get a handle on an ever-evolving situation. Just thinking back to last Wednesday — when IU men’s basketball advanced to the second round of the conference tournament — awes the Hoosiers’ AD.

In a week, campus has closed. IU’s athletic facilities have gone quiet. There are no more games to be played.

“I was musing today that it’s only been a week since we played in the men’s basketball tournament,” Glass said. “But it feels like the world’s changed since then.”

27 comments

  1. I count 4 pictures of Fred in various story boxes on HSR’s homepage.
    Do you need to know much else about the drain sports is currently funneling down (toilet paper not included due to short supply) ?

    Toilet paper now has a higher street value than heroin. Mr. Whipple, we are getting dangerously low on the ‘squeeze.’ Please don’t hide the Charmin.

    1. H4H, you bring back an oldie with the Mr Whimple comment and start the conversation on a whimsical note. I fear many people have no real idea how impact of this virus response will be on our lives. I hear we need to make radical changes to save lives yet we don’t know the results of shutting down our lives if everything proposed happens. This rapid change in our society concerns me as it will change our gov’t and society giving more power to bureaucrats and politicians with the blessing of fearful citizens. Losing freedom is dangerous as getting it back is very difficult.

      I hope we get through this virus and fear from it in good shape as a society. Will we get back freedoms we lose if more serious measure are taken to stop this virus from killing more people or will people just accept in the new order of things it is necessary to limit our freedoms to a more intrusive gov’t. Steps to be taken, may be necessary to limit the damage of this virus to people so we don’t end up in a health emergency. I just hope we come up with a better way to deal with this instead of locking down of society.

      1. Good thoughts, V13. Hard to imagine dinosaurs survived this planet for millions of years. Turns out they were pretty damn resilient from infecting each other. Man is a very arrogant species. We have very little perspective..I guess we must contain the arrogance as a defense mechanism. It’s clear we are losing badly to the dinosaurs.

        We actually think we can ruin this planet….Not happening. We are only ruining our own chances of enjoying the glorious space ball that brought us everything needed to sustain life. When this world has had enough of us, it will shake us off like a bad case of the fleas ( courtesy: George Carlin).
        We’re not even going to be here for Act I.

      2. Very astute thoughts V13,
        I hope everyone realizes the rights we are surrendering in the name of safety could become a greater danger than what we currently fear. There is a reason for the term “sheeple” but everyone needs to remember the fate of the namesake. They either get sheared or skewered!

        1. BD,
          I don’t think anyone said anything about us not being in an emergency. The concern was the “potential” danger of losing our rights guaranteed under the constitution. Once, the emergency has passed, obviously, things should go back to normal. The only problem is precedents are being set, and what may be reasonable precautions today, could be misused in the future under using the same rationale of “for our safety.” Problem is that rationale, depending upon what is being discussed, can be very subjective. It all depends upon whether or not you have enough power to enforce your perspective, rightly or wrongly.

          1. “Steps to be taken, may be necessary to limit the damage of this virus to people so we don’t end up in a health emergency.” – V13

            The ignorance of this statement is clear, if not disheartening. He’s wrong because we’re already at that point.

            I’m all for personal freedoms and liberties and believe they’re one of the cornerstones of our country. Regardless, we’re now in a different time, and we need to exercise sound personal judgment or we’ll risk some of those freedoms most of us hold so dear.

        2. BD you may think it is an emergency and think my comment was ignorant but I can tell you, we don’t know a health emergency yet. Spanish flu killed 180,000 in October of 1918 with a USA population of 105 million, 50 million around the world. Ignorant isn’t the word for disagreements on what is an emergency. I don’t buy into hyperbole when we are just starting to see this early impact of this disease.

          1. Declaring an emergency in arrears makes little sense, though. Just looking at China and Europe tells anyone we’re in an emergency. It’s not hyperbole based on infection rates and known mortality. And the example of the Spanish flu is apt. Regions that practiced social isolation had infection rates well below those areas that did not and suffered horrific losses. With a tracked fatality rate at 10 times the normal flu AND with no vaccine, one need only perform some very basic math to see that there’s no debate regarding whether this is an emergency. We’re there.

          2. No disagreement that we’re in an “emergency”…but there are many companies not treating it as such. Has online purchasing stopped? Has shipping of non-essentials stopped?
            Do you think immune martians are packaging, distributing and shipping all those non-essentials (items not food or crucial medical supplies)?

            Ask Amazon’s CEO if sales are being halted for non-essential items. The only places not laying off right now are distribution centers (UPS, FedEx, Amazon, etc). And those places are cesspools for virus spreading. The rich have more time on their hands…They’re likely ordering sh__ they don’t need like gangbusters. Humans move that sh__ and bring it to your doorstep. Why are we not down to only essentials going through the distribution system? And who decides what is “essential”?

  2. Social distancing? Hell, that sounds like my high school years. There was little social and much distancing. I’ve got this sh__ down. I pretty much mastered in it during college as well.
    And “shelter in place” ….? I thought that was basically already most of California. The homeless have sheltered in place while the rich isolate, distance and insulate themselves as if they poor living on the streets or in shelters are invisible. Why is this so complicated?

    Oh, Mr. Whipple….You sure represented simpler times. Now we don’t squeeze the Charmin. We squeeze most the population out of any standard of living. Throw them a thousand dollars in a crisis so they’ll still deliver our food…or deliver our packages. This crisis will hurt those who have already suffered disproportionately in an economy which most live paycheck to paycheck. Corona is the least of their fears. It’s about as equal to the fear of those immortal young college students on spring break in Florida.

    And I’m by no means attempting to trivialize what is happening….but to many there is no choice but to do everything possible to stay financially afloat. And those jobs are still out there and there is no “social distancing” going on at those places.

    If you find some Charmin, squeeze it hard and guard it with your life. Heaven forbid, you might have to use a wash cloth for a few months and save a few thousand trees in the process. Mr. Whipple would have never survived the ‘Me Too” movement…..(a) he was a stalker and (b) we all know he wanted to be the Charmin the ladies were squeezing. What a creep.

    1. And then there is the image of a sold out gigantic Lucas Oil Football Arena with its elite sliding roof (always thought the building had architectural characteristics of a nazi incinerator)….and inside all the self righteous elite players, coaches, establishment with brainwashed fans squeezing their rolls of Charmin….while just a couple blocks away those who live under a bridge, those who set sideways on a sidewalk hoping to hit a couple dollars jackpot, and those who may be invisible by sleeping unconsciously underneath a blanket all within one square mile of that Chapel….where everyone floats millions around to entertain themselves with nothing more than to squeeze a roll of Charmin.

      1. t,
        I hate to put it this way, but when I see such continually negative feelings about issues such as the privileges of the elite, it is usually for one reason, jealously. In other words, were the roles reversed, one would likely be doing the exact same things. I don’t begrudge anyone success, I just want to see everyone successful.

      2. And yet, the absence of the publicly financed stadium and arena in downtown Indianapolis would’ve left the city as the sleepy little burg it once was. No vibrant restaurant and bar scene, few if any hotels, and non-existent convention business, which brings tens of thousands of money spending visitors to central Indiana every year. Many of those visitors come through a shiny new airport that would’ve never been constructed if not for the increased demand created, in part, by the increase in visitors. Further, the reputation of Indy as a “major” city has led a number of businesses to either relocate to Indianapolis or expand their operations already in place. Look a further than your own small orbit and you’ll see a much greater benefit than you know.

      3. t- Your opinions will always get backlash. What some are “jealous” of is your wit and your creative way of explaining the exploitation of a capitalist system only working for the very top.

        The excuse of greed is to always claim “you would do the same.”

        A lot of that greed is sweating right now…and it’s not corona. They are now as powerless as those they have always overpowered. They are now left with four walls and their thoughts. Things could get ugly very fast. Don’t fool yourself, t. The power is shifting. It’s the downtrodden who are the rocks of society.

  3. BD, you are right about the wide ranging benefits to having stadiums in an area. I would rather see gov’ts provide low cost loans to owners rather than spend tax dollars. Given the choice between tax dollars for a stadium or doing without, I would choose tax dollars I just don’t prefer that option. Indy would be a far worse city without bringing in the Pro Teams and NCAA.

  4. Brainwashed Elitests. I am for elites and receivers of taxes plus all the corporate welfare to pay their own way and not corporate welfare and run their business…That’s all. There are other ways. Professional sports is only one way. However, there are other ways. Give me nap-town when things were in perspective and much more fun. I had good times in naptown. Naptown (as in most all cities) I would argue had less crime, less drugs, and more equality. Who needs all those who make their rounds loving any city where ever they are, that gives them multi millions/billions of dollars. No I don’t enjoy NBA (grown men/boys jogging up and down a court making some kind of (big time wrestling comparison play) filled with music, noise, women, and hoopla. Then, the NFL same type of parallel.

    1. Well, the days of unlocked front doors and no traffic are gone forever, especially if you leave in even a medium sized American city. Taking Indy back 50 years might seem like a wonderful notion, but it would include modest public services, a shrinking tax base, a homogeneous population base, declining schools, a dearth of cultural opportunities, a stagnant if not shrinking business community and a population base migrating away from central Indiana. Rust belt immunities have dealt with this for several decades, and there have been clear winners and losers. Not saying sports has been the centerpiece of the success stories, but it’s been an integral part of it.

  5. And how irresponsible was it for the BigTen to even begin that tournament? What on earth were they thinking? It’s the elitists who blindly still wanted their profits. They were willing to endanger citizens up until the point they were literally pushed against a wall….(some games being cancelled at halftime).
    For the “safety” of the fans, my ass. Try to keep all of that online gambling going as long as possible. Come to think of it..? Are states thinking of putting huge lottery profits toward this crisis?

  6. I would rather have “garden growing olympics” for spring, summer, and fall with enough green space and parks and related competitions than either professional basketball and football. Garden Growing season would at least be eatable. I could see hotel guests from everywhere to come see the various events and contests of growing garden competition. It would probably become world famous.

  7. Semantics aside, the word “Emergency” used in context to the COVID-19 virus was deployed to give elected officials, primarily the President and other elected Chief Executives, the power to make necessary things happen without the delays associated with red tape and bureaucracies. I agree with V13’s comment above. By historical standards, what we’re dealing with right now is not an “emergency.” As of this morning, the COVID-19 virus has killed just over 100 people in the U.S. And as you all know, the vast majority of people who become infected with the virus will survive. What we’re dealing with right now is a collective effort, lead and managed by governmental officials, to PREVENT a medical emergency. And IMO, if the actions taken result in just one life being saved, then all the inconvenience we experiencing will have been worth it.

    I was working with nurses and doctors in a large hospital in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS Epidemic in the 80’s. Every bed in that hospital, over 500 of them, was occupied by terminal AIDS patients. A doctor turned to me and said, “the difference between this hospital and all the others you’ve worked in is that every one of these patients is going to die within the next 30 days. None of them will ever leave this hospital or go home again.” That was a surreal experience, and IMO a far worse medical emergency than what we’re facing now.

    We’ll overcome this because we’re Americans, and in spite of all our political disagreements, that’s what we do. Be smart and be safe.

    1. It’s absolutely a medical emergency, from the rate of infection, the rate of death, the lack of testing capability, and the lack of health care capability available to address the outbreak. Every healthcare and infectious disease expert considers it an emergency, without exception. Given that fact, how could it possibly not be considered a medical / public health emergency, based on everything known about it?

  8. Cool. More class warfare on the internet while the world is facing one of the biggest challenges since WW2. Excellent focus guys. Excellent.

    Going back to Twitter. IU guys there are reminiscing, posting clips and videos of old classic IU games. It’s been a really nice reflection of what a great program Indiana is.

    Oh wait, cue the 25 posts after this one talking about how terrible it is that it isn’t 1987 anymore.

    Back to your old man mad at “The Man” talk.

  9. Many are talking of the state of emergency. I asked a simple question. Has Amazon shut down their distribution centers and have they gone to shutting down delivery and orders of all non-essential goods?
    In-store retail was dying long ago. Retail is now the internet. Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, and in the coming weeks, internet/online purchases will become the only retail. But here’s the kicker…Thousands of people work in that online distribution system (order-takers, customer service, warehouse, delivery, packaging, etc)…and their contact amongst each other is probably higher than what would occur in your local Macy’s…or Walmart (especially at the warehouses and distribution centers).

    If you want to truly slow the outbreak, then stop orders and delivery of non-essentials. Stop furniture..Stop children’s toys…Stop video game systems from being delivered. Stop Apple phones and computers from being delivered. Stop everything but food and medical goods/equipment.
    Thousands upon thousands trek to those jobs …and then trek home and into various communities. They can become virus carrying hubs. It’s the new economy. You just don’t order off the internet and the product magically appears in your living room. The product goes from distribution center to distribution center…Products are handled in close proximity. Buses transport employees to distribution centers. And then you begin all the possible contacts from loading docks and so-forth.

    Stop these people from coming into work. Pay them to stay home. Run on the smallest crews possible to maintain the delivery of essentials. It’s not like Amazon doesn’t have the billions to do so.

    I just find it comical how Cuomo gets on television and talks of cutting work forces down to 25%. That’s not true. Some who have worked at bars, restaurants, etc are now going to Amazon to stay employed. There is no reduction in contact. They have no safety net…and they will trek to where the jobs are still happening. They will drive two hours to make $15.00/hr.

    If you want to call that class warfare, that’s fine. But don’t claim there’s an emergency. The corporate giants are not shutting down…They are all open for business. It’s simply shifted purchasing and increased volume into other forms of distribution where people congregate and work together.

  10. This marks the first Amazon blue-collar employee to be confirmed to have the virus in the US.

    In its facilities in Europe, however, Amazon has detected at least five cases of the virus in three warehouses. Two warehouses in Spain and one warehouse in Italy have confirmed cases, but all three facilities have remained open.

    Workers in the affected warehouses have expressed their concerns, and in Italy workers went on strike Tuesday to protest the company’s response to the crisis.

    Julian Marval, a worker at the Madrid warehouse, told Business Insider on Thursday that Amazon had been reported to Spain’s Labor Inspectorate, an independent labor-law watchdog.

    “I think the measures they claim they have taken since day one are just simply not enough,” he said, adding: “In other companies they are limiting the presence of so many workers at once, and they are cleaning more efficiently. Here the cleaning is poor.”(courtesy: Business Insider)

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