INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be the first major sporting venue to have fans back in the stands this summer.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a five-stage plan Friday to reopen the state with the final phase tentatively scheduled to include a return to sporting venues on July 4 — the same day an IndyCar- Xfinity Series doubleheader is scheduled to be run at the track.
Holcomb said social distancing guidelines will remain in place through at least race weekend, but it will give one of the world’s most iconic sports facilities the potential to be one of the first events to welcome back fans.
It’s been a busy few months since Roger Penske purchased the track and the IndyCar series, a deal that closed in January. When the sports world started shutting down March 12, following the lead of the NBA, Penske and his team went to work on contingency plans.
They moved the track’s marquee event, the Indianapolis 500, from its traditional Memorial Day weekend slot to Aug. 23. They also announced IndyCar’s other May race, the GMR Grand Prix, would be rescheduled for July 4 as part of a Saturday doubleheader with the Xfinity’s Pennzoil 150. Both will be held on the track’s road course.
NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 is still set for its original date of July 5 on the historic 2.5-mile oval.
UVA coaches take voluntary pay cut
The Virginia athletic department announced that all 20 head sport coaches, athletics director Carla Williams and an additional 51 assistant coaches and staff have taken voluntary salary reductions for the remainder of the calendar year. Staff were asked to participate in mid-April, and the salary reductions took place starting with the current pay period.
“The shared sacrifices of our coaches and staff will help us address financial shortfalls during this difficult time,” Williams said. “Our hearts go out to those who are suffering and to those who have lost loved ones.”
Testing critical for college sports’ return
Widespread testing for coronavirus will be crucial to having college sports in the fall — especially contact sports such as football and basketball, the NCAA’s chief medical officer said.
Dr. Brian Hainline expressed cautious optimism that college sports could be played during the fall semester as long as leaders take a methodical approach.
“It’s not going to be risk-free, that’s for sure,” Hainline said. “If this is rolled out in stages and reasonably, we’re really paying attention to proper surveillance and we get the tests available, I think we can have fall sports. My concern is if we just rush into this too quickly because of this almost sense of desperation, that we just have to get going.”
The NCAA also released guidelines from its COVID-19 Advisory Panel for getting teams up and running on campuses. The guidelines start with students back at school, which has become a familiar refrain among college sports leaders in recent weeks.
The NCAA’s recommendations incorporate a recent three-phase plan from the White House for restarting the economy that account for regional differences in the fight against COVID-19 and certain benchmarks being reached.
“Once COVID-19 infection rates diminish for at least 2 weeks, resocialization of society and sport may be possible,” the NCAA guidance states. The NCAA is also recommending a three-phase plan, with practice facilities reopening in phase three.
The priority is to be able to test athletes, coaches and support staff so competition can begin.
Determining whether games can be played in front of fans is a low priority.
“I think realistically having a football game with 90,000 fans, that would take a remarkable turnaround in a short period of time,” Hainline said.
He said it would take massive immunity, a breakthrough in treatment of the virus or the ability to rapidly and efficiently test people as they enter stadiums.
NBA pushing back draft lottery, combine
The NBA is delaying the draft lottery and draft combine, events scheduled for Chicago later this month.
The league made the decision Friday, though it has been expected for some time. The lottery cannot occur until the regular season is completed or is declared over, because team records determine the odds that the 14 non-playoff teams will have of securing the right to pick No. 1 overall in the draft.
The lottery was to have taken place May 19. The draft combine was to have run from May 21-24.
cleared of virus
Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller said he tested negative for the coronavirus two weeks after announcing he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Miller went public with his diagnosis on April 16. He said he wanted to show that the virus could affect anybody, even someone such as a young, world-class athlete in tip-top shape.
Miller, who has asthma, was under the care of Broncos team doctors and quarantined at his Denver area home over the last two weeks.
Golf: The European Masters tournament scheduled for August in Switzerland has been canceled. Organizers say the decision came after the Swiss government extended a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people through August.
Running: The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta is moving to Thanksgiving from its traditional Fourth of July date because of the pandemic. The event is the world’s largest 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) race with about 60,000 participants. The first race was held in 1970.