Michael Phillips is a graduate student at Iona College. He complements his studies with work as a broadcaster, among other roles, for Iona athletics through ESPN 3. He assists the television broadcasts in the production truck as well.
I asked Phillips how the coronavirus has impacted his work in particular. In March, he was behind the scenes for coverage of Iona men’s basketball’s run through the MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City. I asked how the subsequent schedule changes throughout college basketball impacted him now, and again now.
Chris Russo: First off, what did you think of the NCAA’s decision to cancel March Madness?
Michael Phillips: I think the NCAA absolutely made the correct call to cancel March Madness. Rudy Gobert’s situation reminded us it takes only one person to spread the virus to a lot of places, so sending 68 teams of college athletes all across the country in the middle of a pandemic would have been reckless.
CR: How has the coronavirus impacted you as a sportscaster?
MP: The coronavirus obviously has taken away live sports, meaning sportscasters have to dig a bit harder to create fresh content. NFL Free Agency helps in this regard, but it will show who can be creative and think outside the box.
CR: What are you doing to keep busy until we can return to normalcy?
MP: I am still writing about sports on FanSided as well as catering my weekly sports podcast to better fit the current environment. I am also attempting to complete my graduate thesis film, using a home audio setup to complete my final interviews.
CR: What has the impact been like for Iona sports in general?
MP: The impact basically brought an end to Iona’s sports seasons. The MAAC canceled all spring sports, so there will be no more games for Iona’s student-athletes until the 2020-2021 academic year.
CR: You worked behind the scenes during the MAAC Men’s Basketball Tournament just before the string of sports cancellations. What was that atmosphere like?
MP: The atmosphere at the MAAC Tournament down in Atlantic City was certainly interesting as everyone was on alert about coronavirus precautions. It certainly did not feel like business as usual at the event even though the conference tried to carry on until the Gobert news broke.
CR: How did the atmosphere change as the NCAA and other major conferences made their announcements and cancellations?
MP: The atmosphere really changed with the Gobert news and the NBA shutting down its season on Wednesday night. I was working the Iona basketball game that night and everyone kind of sensed that even if the Gaels won that the whole scene was going to be shut down. It almost seemed inevitable that everything would come to a halt.
CR: What do you think of the idea to allow seniors an extra year of eligibility because of time lost due to the quarantine?
MP: I think it is a fantastic idea for seniors who participate in spring sports like baseball and softball. Those athletes did not get a chance to play for more than a few weeks of their season, so giving them a chance to end their athletic careers on their own terms is a valuable idea.
CR: How long do you think it will be, after the quarantine ends, until the sports world seemingly returns to normal?
MP: That information is really an unknown at this time and depends entirely on how effective our new social distancing measures are at containing the spread of the virus. The most accurate judgment we can make at this time is through the CDC’s guidelines suggesting a limit on gatherings of more than 50 people for eight weeks, which takes us into mid-May. Assuming that timetable is accurate sports will likely resume in June, possibly without fans at the very beginning.
CR: Considering all the events cancelled, how does this quarantine period exemplify the importance of sports?
MP: The absence of sports does indicate that it does have a valuable place in our society as a distraction from some of the uglier facets of the modern world. This quarantine has also demonstrated how widespread the sports industry is as a lot of people are now out of work without the games being played.
CR: What is the most disappointing aspect of this quarantining period?
MP: The most disappointing aspect of the quarantine period is simply the unknown of how long it will really last. With events like blizzards, there is a finite time period until things can get back to normal. There is no timetable for a return to normalcy, only the solace that it is eventually coming, which is frustrating for people who just want to go on with their lives like they had been living them.