Smart, UGA athletics hunkered down during spring shutdown

Georgia baseball coach Scott Stricklin is with family on a beach in Florida. Basketball coach Tom Crean has returned to his home in Bradenton, Fla. Women’s basketball coach Joni Taylor is home with family in Athens. So is football coach Kirby Smart.

Technically, there remains a chance that UGA athletics — and college athletics in general — will resume at some point this spring. But the likelihood of that happening is dissipating by the day.

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 canceled all athletic events for the remainder of the semester over the weekend. It would seem just a matter of time before the SEC does the same.

“Our offices are open for essential personnel only,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said from his Butts-Mehre office Monday morning. “We’re constantly communicating with our students and coaches. This thing changes every day, every hour, so we’re just trying provide them with the latest information as it comes available.”

McGarity said he is participating on a daily teleconference call with other SEC athletic directors each day at noon. Whatever new information he gathers from that is relayed to UGA’s coaches and athletes.

All of the football coaches’ parking spaces at the Butts-Mehre complex were occupied Monday, including the one marked “reserved for head football coach.”

But Smart was not at the office Monday, which would have been in violation of University of Georgia directive that was circulated last week. It stated: “Anyone who has traveled internationally in the past 14 days must self-quarantine until you have been asymptomatic for a period of 14 days from the date of entering/re-entering the United States.”

Smart traveled outside the U.S. during spring break. Careful not to mention Smart by name, McGarity said nobody in UGA athletics was violating the policy.

“No employees are violating any directive given by the university,” McGarity said. “It’s all protected by HIPAA, but we know who those folks are and they understand the policy. There’s no conflict there.”

Georgia’s baseball team was ranked No. 2 in the nation and was en route to Gainesville for a showdown against No. 1 Florida this past Friday when it was told that all games had been cancelled until March 30. The Bulldogs, in Brunswick at the time, immediately turned their bus around and came back to Athens.

Since then, the SEC has extended hiatus to April 15. Meanwhile, the CDC on Sunday issued a recommendation that, “for the next 8 weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the U.S.”

All indications are that Georgia is done competing for the academic year.

“I think baseball is over and everything is going to be shut down,” Stricklin said Monday.

Stricklin said his players became aware of that even before their bus made it back to Athens last Thursday night. By then, they’d seen on social media that the NCAA had canceled all spring championships. That, of course, includes the NCAA regionals, super regionals and College World Series.

“I saw it and the players saw it and within that minute the bus got eerily quiet and somber,” Stricklin said. “Back at Foley Field, we met and at that point out guys realized that some careers could be over, that some seniors and juniors could have played their last college game. It was really tough, the toughest meeting I’ve ever had to hold.

“The toughest part was there was no finality to it.”