BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Andy Kennedy acknowledged the bizarre nature of an introductory news conference without any media in attendance.
It wasn’t even the strangest scene the new UAB coach has experienced because of the coronavirus.
“We’re living in unusual times; hence a press conference with no people,” Kennedy said Monday, when he was formally introduced as the new coach of his alma mater.
UAB allowed only 10 staffers inside the Green and Gold room at Bartow Arena with a moderator and live streaming on Facebook in an attempt to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Kennedy was introduced by athletic director Mark Ingram, then fielded a few questions from radio announcer David Crane, who also relayed several taken in advance by reporters. They sat on opposite ends of a small table with their chairs pulled back some and a 2015 Conference USA Tournament championship trophy in between.
Kennedy, who had been living in suburban Birmingham after his 12-year run as Mississippi’s coach, did jokingly note that they might not have the full six feet of separation recommended by health officials during the global pandemic.
It was a strange scene but less so than what happened last week — or than what Kennedy fears could lie ahead.
Kennedy was working at the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville for ESPN and the SEC Network when the remaining games around the country — including the NCAA Tournament and many other sporting events — were called off. Suddenly, the arenas were empty.
“It felt surreal, like is this actually happening,” said Kennedy, who replaced Robert Ehsan. “This is certainly not the introduction that we wanted. I can’t wait for this room to be filled and to see many familiar faces.”
Normally, such introductions for new coaches at UAB and elsewhere would include some fans and prominent boosters and a number of reporters and cameras.
Not this time. He was joined in the room by Ingram and mostly media relations officials and the production crew.
Kennedy, whose hiring was announced on Friday, received a six-year contract and an unconventional situation that coaches and athletic programs around the country are also confronting.
The NCAA has suspended in-person recruiting until at least April 15, and it’s not clear when games will resume.
“We are in strange times,” Kennedy said. “This next season as we all try to figure out what the next day holds, will be the most unusual in the history of intercollegiate athletics.”
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