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Statement from John Cunningham

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  • Statement from John Cunningham

    This just hit my inbox a couple of minutes ago.
    Bearcats,
    Ten days ago, I was preparing to get onto a flight to Fort Worth, Texas for the American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship. As I approached the gate, I received a call from the league office confirming the tournament would not be played. Since that moment, my day-to-day work, as well as the day-to-day work of the Bearcats Athletics staff, has been altered. Instead of working to support and highlight the accomplishments of our men’s and women’s basketball teams or promoting the start of our spring sports season, our focus has shifted to the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. Instead of a bustling Lindner Athletics Center, we are now operating the department remotely, and like many of you, working from home and communicating through web-conferencing tools and conference calls. Business moves forward.

    Every morning at 8:30 a.m., our medical personnel provide an update to our department’s senior staff, informing us of any recent Coronavirus developments. We specifically discuss its impact on our student-athlete population. Maintaining the mental and physical health of our young people remains our primary focus. Our student-athletes have lived a very structured life since starting at UC and in many cases, their structure has abruptly stopped. They are bound to feel isolated, frustrated and maybe a little bit lost. Student-athletes are now spread across the country with a small group who were not able to return home, staying in campus housing.

    We have taken significant steps to stay in contact with our student-athletes and support them in any way possible. Our coaches and staff have used a variety of different methods to stay connected with our student-athletes. Through video messages, social media communication and care packages for those still in the dorms, we are checking in and making sure our student-athletes are in a good place. Additionally, our mental-health providers are working remotely with student-athletes and staff.

    Our staff is also continuing to work with our student-athletes by developing in-home workout plans, which can be monitored remotely by our strength and conditioning staff and health services team. While the Lindner Center is closed to non-essential personnel, the training room remains open with reduced staffing to provide mandatory services to our local student-athlete population.

    With classes resuming remotely on Thursday, the Student-Athlete Support Services staff has developed individualized plans for every student-athlete and will provide full academic support and tutoring sessions remotely. In addition to getting our student-athletes back into a school routine, maintaining our record-breaking GPA and APR scores is a priority of the department.

    I appreciate the leadership of UC President Pinto and Governor DeWine during these unprecedented times. Each has taken important and decisive action to keep our university and state safe.

    We continue to connect with our AAC peers regularly to openly share our ongoing circumstances and best practices and I am grateful to Commissioner Mike Aresco and the other league ADs for facilitating open dialogue. As leaders, we are working together through this tough time.

    In my short tenure as UC’s director of athletics, I continue to be impressed with the dedication and work ethic of our Bearcats Athletics Staff. While much of our time has been spent solving problems related to the disruptive influence of the Coronavirus, I have challenged staff to take this unusual hiatus from live sports to organize and plan for the future. We are evaluating how we can improve and planning for what’s next. Now is the time to be innovative and take on projects that have been difficult to get started in the past. We look forward to welcoming fans back to campus with new ways to experience and enjoy Bearcats Athletics.

    One of the pillars of our mission statement is to Connect Our Community through Bearcats Athletics. With our external platforms (social media, website, video content etc.) not being used for spring sports updates, we have a unique opportunity to creatively connect with our community. Along these lines, we are rolling out a social media campaign to support our local restaurant partners during these turbulent financial times. Look for more information shortly on what we are calling the Bearcats Carryout Challenge, a program to encourage Bearcats fans to support our partners through carryout/delivery orders and generous tips. Additionally, we are exploring ways to use our platforms and resources to say 'Thank You' to our local health care providers who are working tirelessly to serve our community. This pandemic is so much bigger than sports, but sports and the natural community it creates can be a pathway to create action and come together.

    We also realize Bearcats Athletics, and sports in general, serve an important role in providing much-needed distraction and entertainment. Our content creators are hard at work identifying ways to stoke the fire for UC Athletics during this time. Please continue to engage with our social media platforms and visit GoBEARCATS.com for additional content.

    As much as our athletics staff has expressed disappointment with temporarily losing sports and has been challenged by a work-at-home requirement, many of them have also felt a renewed connection to their families and community. We hope our fan base is also experiencing these unique slices of happiness and goodwill during this strange, stressful time. The Bearcats Athletics staff misses our fans and we are thinking about the health and safety of our fans during this time. We look forward to seeing you soon!

    Stay safe and healthy, Go Bearcats
    Brent Wyrick
    92 Final Four Front Row
    @LobotC2DFW

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