Mike Murphy, Associate Athletic Director for Communications at the University of New Hampshire, recalls the days where he’d walk into the field house and be greeted by seven different people in his office.
“It was a beehive of activity. You never knew where your day was going to take you. Simply walking from door-to-door you’d have the potential of talking to head coaches from every sport,” explained Murphy. “The face-to-face stuff you could count on. You took for granted just trying to find a parking spot in lot A.”
He also recalls the day where “zoom became the way of life.”
It was St. Patrick’s Day when Murphy went into the field house to pack up his office. He notes that he remembers the day because he wore his fancy green pants but “there weren’t all that many people here to see them.”
This past March when UNH sent their students home for the remainder of the spring, they weren’t the only ones effected. No more school meant no more sports, and no more sports meant that Murphy along with everybody else that worked in the field house were forced to start working from home.
Murphy began working from home in March and didn’t find his way back to the field house until May. He claims to have only been on zoom once or twice prior, but it quickly became is primary means of operation. As opposed to simply walking down the hall to meet with a coach or a player, he now had to learn this whole new way of doing his own job.
When he did eventually make his way back to Durham in May he says that he bumped into a few people in the building but joked that they were “kind of distrusting each other while looking at each other.”
A month later Murphy began coming to campus once a week “for [his] own sanity.” He didn’t do his work from his office, however; he would head up to the press box at Wildcat Stadium where the media sits for football games. He admitted this gave him a sense of normalcy, being able to have some face-to-face interactions, and watching over the field as some groups of student-athletes would be training for the upcoming season. All that changed in mid-July, however.
On July 20 UNH Director of Athletics, Marty Scarano, announced that postponement of fall sports through the first semester of school. Scarano’s job over the summer looked a little bit different than Murphy’s.
He found himself on calls most days meeting with the dean, the coaches, and fellow athletic directors in the conference. They worked all summer to try and scheme a way to play sports this fall and were pretty close to moving forward towards the end of June.
“The pandemic had somewhat flattened, certainly here in New Hampshire and the national trend was fairly positive, and then when the pandemic took the awful turn that it did after the Fourth of July it became increasingly obvious that we weren’t going to put our student athletes in as good of a position as we had hoped relative to their safety and welfare, and it probably was going to stress the resources of the university. In many ways it wasn’t the right thing to do,” Scarano said.
Murphy explained that the toughest part of the job since the postponement of fall sports has been not having the same internal timeframe as he’s accustomed to.
“There’s certain things you can rely on. You know when the calendar changes to mid-July, you start thinking it’s time to get ramped up for football and I’d fly to Baltimore for media day in the last week of July,” he explained. “Then camp opens in August, teams are on campus, and you’re getting pictures. We’re all on a routine.”
He went on to explain that one of the more frustrating parts of the semester has been that he hasn’t met any of the first-year athletes. It’s much easier for him to set up meetings and interviews with people he’s built relationships with but has been unable to do that with the newcomers to this point.
Associate Director of Athletic Communications, Jim Wrobel, explained the difference between this fall and ones that he’s experienced in the past.
“We’re as busy as we’ve ever been, it’s just a different kind of busy.”
He noted that in the past the staff generally works the games that are going on that week and they get to go home after it’s over. What has made this year so different is the different kind of content that needs to be produced without the safety net of having a game in a few days. Wrobel explained that they have been busy getting stories up on the website and creating graphics, but ultimately “it’s just different.”
Even the students working inside the field house are experiencing the loss of a fall season. The Wildcat Internship Program is a marketing and communication internship for UNH students that works closely with each of the teams on campus.
Jordan Conn, who has been a part of the program for multiple years, explained that in the past a typical week for him included going into the field house two days a week and working on whatever assignments needed to get done. While this hasn’t necessarily changed too much this time around for Conn, he explains that the biggest difficulty is not having games to look forward to.
“Everybody is disappointed there’s not games. Those are a lot of fun especially for the interns to work because you get a firsthand experience of what it’s like to do the stuff behind the scenes at a game.”
There may be a glimmer of hope in the coming months, however. Hockey East has been working towards attempting a season, and the NCAA has announced an opening date of Nov. 25 for the basketball season. It’s been a while, but things may finally be on their way back to being normal for college athletics.