Sideline View by Dale McKee

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If you spectators are missing sports, you are not alone. But players, coaches and teams are missing playing and competing. College coaches around the world have been forced to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is uncharted territory. If you had told me that the NCAA Basketball Tournament would be cancelled, I would have thought there is no way that would ever happen. I think what this has taught us in our country is that we have a void when sports are not being played, but I also think as we go through this it gives us a chance to put athletics in their proper perspective,” said Southern Mississippi basketball coach Jay Ladner by phone.

Ladner just completed his first season as head coach of the Golden Eagles, and for him it has been a big change. “We can text, Face Time and phone possible recruits, but with our campus shut down that may not be effective. I really don’t see many higher-level recruits with multiple offers signing with anyone unless they have already visited a school. As we travel into this uncharted territory, even our present players because of campus being closed have to take their courses on line. For some players that is something new. We do have online tutors and video conferencing, but in the end when you have your guys every day, it is so much better with accountability.”

Ladner says he works out of his home and does what he can under NCAA rules to contact present players and recruits. He keeps up with the NCAA transfer portal and hopes that Covid-19 will end as soon as possible so normalcy is restored.

Tough on new coaching staff

Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin was on a teleconference call last week and talked about how not having spring training will affect the Rebels football team for the upcoming season. “It really hurts a first-year coaching staff. If I were still at FAU, it wouldn’t be a big deal. We knew our returning players, they knew our system, and most had played together. For new coaches, it’s not equal at all. With no spring, it’s definitely going to hurt most first-year programs a lot more than the programs with continuity. Coaching is about understanding your players and knowing how to coach them. Until we can get on the field with them, we don’t understand that. We lose getting to know each other.

“Hopefully, when this passes, we will be allowed extra practice time. I really do not have a clue when we will see our players again.”

College baseball numbers not adding up

Mississippi State baseball coach Chris Lemonis had his 2020 Bulldogs peaking just in time for the Southeastern Conference baseball opener versus Arkansas. MSU was playing their best baseball in a sweep of Texas Tech in Biloxi, despite several key injuries. Lemonis and most Division 1 baseball coaches are still trying to figure out if the college-governing body will adopt the proposal of granting an extra year of eligibility to the present players. If the vote grants the extra eligibility, how will that affect next year’s roster? The Bulldogs have 14 new players set to join the roster in the fall but will have a numbers problem as all Division 1 teams are limited to 36 players on their rosters. State has only two seniors and a trio of graduate players to go with five present underclassmen who could be selected in the Major League Baseball draft. The downside is that MLB may only have five rounds of the draft instead of the 40 rounds of last year. There will be some tough decisions for all college baseball coaches next season.

Dale is a Waynesboro native who has been writing sports since 1973.