Utah AD Mark Harlan Issues Letter To Players, Fans After Pac-12 Postpones Fall Sports

Aug 11, 2020, 3:19 PM
Mark Harlan - Utah Athletic Director...
University of Utah's new Athletics Director Mark Harlan leaves the field at Rice Eccles Stadium on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Courtesy of Deseret News)
(Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In a letter written to the “Utah Athletics Family” University of Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan addressed the news of the Pac-12 canceling fall sports.

Harlan wrote to explain that the University of Utah’s top priority is their students. The Pac-12 CEO Group voted to postpone fall sports until at least January 1, 2021.

Letter To Utah Athletics From Mark Harlan

“Dear Utah Athletics Family,

“As I write to you today, I recognize what a challenging time this is for everyone, and I’m hopeful this letter finds you and your family in good health,” Harlan wrote.

“This has been an incredibly difficult time for our young people, and our primary concern is for the health, safety and well-being of the student-athletes, whose interest and needs we prioritize and serve on a daily basis. I want to take this opportunity to share with you a disappointing development for those student-athletes, as well as four our coaches, staff, the University and for all of you who support Utah Athletics so passionately,” the letter continued.

“Today the Pac-12 announced the postponement of all fall sports, and a pause of any competition until after January 1,” Harlan wrote. “We know this presents a significant disruption to so many of our student-athletes across multiple sports programs, and especially for our seniors in those sports. For months we have been working diligently in consultation with top medical experts to create a safe path for competition in these sports to take place, and using all of the information and time available to us. However, with the challenges and complexities presented by COVID-19, the medical advice does not support conducting fall sports seasons.

“We applaud and appreciate the work being done on each of our individual campuses and, by our local and state health officials and by the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee,” the letter continued. “The plans created to allow for the start of voluntary workouts earlier this summer were thorough, prudent and have proven to be highly successful. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff have been extremely diligent in adhering to those protocols and making smart decisions in their personal lives. Moving from that phase to full-contact workouts and the type of practices necessary to safely prepare to competition is not something that was recommended by the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee at this time.

“Our attention will continue to focus on providing for the academic, emotional and physical well-being of our student-athletes,” Harlan wrote. “They will continue to prepare for their upcoming academic semester, and they will continue to have the same access to our first-class medical care, mental health care, academic support, nutrition and meals and scholarship support. We are working closely with the Pac-12 and the NCAA to address questions regarding eligibility.

“We know there is a great deal of disappointment around this decision for all involved,” the letter continued. “I write to you today in acknowledgment and recognition of your passion and loyalty to the University of Utah and the young people who represent all of us so admirably in athletics.

“It was prudent that we make every effort possible to preserve the opportunity for our fall sports to compete in 2020,” Harlan wrote. “Our ability to serve our student-athletes is something we strive to preserve in every way possible, and our ability to do so is best served by having fall sports. I feel very confident that every responsible avenue was explored in this pursuit, and I support this very difficult decision made by the Pac-12 CEO Group.

“We know that you support our athletics programs with such dedication and commitment also experience a loss with this decision, and we know that you have many questions that we will seek to answer as quickly as possible,” the letter continued. “Football season ticket holders have received several communications in recent months, outlining the options available if a season was not played. Fans may receive a full refund, or they may either designate their 2020 season ticket payment as a tax-deductible donation to Utah Athletics or apply the payment to their 2021 season tickets. With all three options they retain their season ticket holder status for 2021. In light of the significant budget strain presented by these challenges, I encourage those who are able to please consider converting their 2020 season ticket payment to a tax-deductible donation. These donations will assist us in supporting our student-athletes and maintaining our academics, and eventually competitive, momentum.

“We are extremely grateful for your continued support, loyalty and patience while we have worked through this process,” Harlan wrote. “It as an extremely disappointing situation, and the decision today is difficult to digest for all of us, but we also know we have incredibly resilient student-athletes, coaches and staf, and the most loyal, dedicated and passionate fans, and we will emerge stronger.

“Mark Harlan
“Utah Athletics Director”

Statement From Pac-12 Officials

The Pac-12 announced on Tuesday that they will postpone fall sports competition. Oregon President Michael H. Schill and Conference Commissioner Larry Scott released statements.

“All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans,” said Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon. “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes. We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”

“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.  “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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Utah AD Mark Harlan Issues Letter To Players, Fans After Pac-12 Postpones Fall Sports