Sports

Long Beach State athletic director Andy Fee discusses challenges, looks forward to next semester

For Long Beach State’s athletic department, the fall semester has been nothing short of tumultuous.

To try and stay afloat financially for the upcoming academic year, the department has relied on multiple fundraisers and donations. The first Beach Athletic Virtual Fund Run in April raised $15,000.

Recently, the department has started selling cardboard cutouts with fans’ photos printed out for $100 to go inside the Walter Pyramid during basketball games. 

This semester the Beach has received nearly $700,000 from local donor’s donations, close to their goal of $1 million that will be allocated for student-athlete coronavirus testing. 

“I think we’re gonna keep plugging ahead…I don’t see a reason not to. We haven’t had positive cases so  I don’t see a reason why we should stop,” Long Beach State athletic director Andy Fee said. “I think should it happen, that would be unfortunate, and we would obviously adjust, but until we get to that point, I think we’d like to give it every shot we can to play games and if we can do it safely, we’ll keep doing it.”

Fee throughout the semester has been working in coordination with the Long Beach Public Health Department to get the men’s and women’s basketball programs back to action. 

Following approval from the Big West on Sept. 23, basketball has been the only fall sport that has been granted permission to play. Due to an on-campus outbreak of COVID-19 on Sept. 26 in Parkside College, however, both teams’ original return date of Oct. 1 was postponed to Oct. 14. 

Practicing outdoors at the Rhodes Tennis Center on campus for nearly a month, both programs were moved indoors at AIM Sports Group in Seal Beach for the first time since March 12. Since moving to AIM, both programs returned to the Beach and have been practicing inside the Walter Pyramid.

“In my opinion, I think the players are taking it very seriously, [but] we can’t create the NBA bubble,” Fee said. “People have to go to the grocery store, but I think they’re being very cautious and are taking every precautionary piece of advice that they can use and are following it.

According to Fee, the athletic department has learned a lot this semester. With no playbook written for how to handle a pandemic of this scale, Fee believes the department has done a “really good job” dealing with things that they have never seen before. 

“While we haven’t really been able to do what we want to do physically, meaning practicing regimens, working out in the weight room all those things that we love to do, what we have been able to do is work on bonding as a team,” Fee said. “Our Beach family has been supporting one another through the ups and downs and the struggles that we’re all facing.”

Even though the department has had success fundraising for COVID-related expenses, the Beach now faces the challenge of raising money for scholarships.

Fee said that the department has a plan in place to cover testing needs for sports in the spring term.

“The state budget means that the belt gets tighter, and we have to fundraise now for more operational needs,” Fee said. “So there’s not an alarm bell that I’m ringing, but I would say I’m very concerned, and the reality is we need to keep raising money. We need to keep making a case of why it’s important to invest in college athletics.”

The Dirtbags baseball program is set to return back to practice Jan. 15, but according to Fee the next few weeks of basketball competition will “tell the tale” in whether that date will be able to be met. 

In the meantime, Fee said the department is trying not to get too far ahead of itself.

“We’ll just kind of like everybody else, be patient, be flexible and adjust as necessary,” Fee said. “So that’s really the plan moving forward is to maintain the flexibility within people’s decisions, and then how we can best ensure as much safety as we can for our coaches, staff and student athletes.”

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