Washington State University is moving to fully online classes this fall in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, but head women’s swimming & diving coach Matt Leach says that he still expects to have a season.
The team currently has a handful of swimmers back on campus and swimming under the NCAA’s ‘voluntary training’ guidelines. Those guidelines don’t allow direct instruction by coaches or skill-based activities, but do allow voluntary conditioning workouts (which is a blurred line in swimming). There are exceptions for strength coaches and swim coaches due to safety concerns, though those coaches are still not supposed to be actively instructing the team beyond what is necessary for safety.
As part of the school’s return-to-training protocols, athletes are being subjected to coronavirus tests, anti-body tests, and return to play physicals. Athletes are retested every 2 weeks, and are being limited to 1 swimmer per lane.
“The number one thing is safety, we want our community to be safe, we want our student-athletes to be safe,” Leach said. “So safety is most important here.”
Leach says that he expects most of his team to return to Pullman in the fall and live off campus and conduct their studies online while local and beginning their season as plan. Campus residence halls will only be open to what the school calls a “demonstrated institutional need” for a small group of students.
He’s encouraging those swimmers who are not back on campus yet to arrive a week or two before the August 21 start date for formal practice so that they can quarantine and get settled in to their new college environs before returning to the water. The school’s first day of instruction is August 24, 2020.
Leach says that he still expects his international student-athletes to be able to return and perform their virtual education from Pullman and participate with the team after the U.S. Government loosened restrictions on international students being in the country for online-only education. He did say that they were still working through some visa stuff for some of those students. Washington State lost their assistant coach Bex Freebairn this offseason after the US government made it harder for foreign nationals to get work visas in the US. Freebairn is from New Zealand.
Washington State has finished in 8th place at the Pac-12 Championships in both seasons since they hired Matt Leach (out of 9 teams in 2019 and out of 8 teams in 2020 after Oregon State dropped its program). Last season saw them add more than 100 points to their Pac-12 Championship point total, however, and break 4 school records at the Pac-12 Championships.