The Journal Gazette
Thursday, May 21, 2020 1:00 am

Boilers' athletic director hopeful

Looking at facts to guide return

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski advocated an approach based in facts and science as the Boilermakers and the rest of the Big Ten eye a return to athletics in the fall.

“Right now, everybody's got an opinion and speculating and honestly most of those folks know no more than anybody else,” Bobinski said. “I think being based in fact, based in science is the very best thing we can all do. Sometimes that's hard to come by so you have to slow down a bit, but that's the approach Purdue has taken.

“We in athletics have every intention to mirror that same approach. We have been hard at working planning for a return to staff activity first, a return to student-athlete activity second and a return to competition third and what that will need to look like from a safety and mitigation perspective in every responsible way and every fact-based way that we possibly can.”

Bobinski made his comments during an online conversation Tuesday night as part of the “Purdue in Your Home” web series. The series is a socially distanced version of the annual “Purdue on the Road” cycle, which usually sees prominent members of the athletic department make appearances in cities across Indiana during the summer. Purdue in Your Home will host similar events June 16 and July 14.

In addition to Bobinski, there was also a video conversation with Purdue volleyball players Emma Ellis and Jena Otec. The pair answered submitted questions.

“I miss my teammates and my coaches and everybody and obviously I miss Boiler Nation,” said Otec, who is entering her senior season. “I just can't wait to get back into Holloway Gym(nasium) and play in front of an amazing crowd.”

The 62-year-old Bobinski emphasized that getting sports going again will be a complicated process that requires coordination between campus, local, state and federal officials and a wide variety of protocols to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 as much as possible for coaches, players and support staff.

Despite those obstacles, he struck an optimistic note and said the athletic department was motivated by university President Mitch Daniels who has, since mid-April, set the university's sights on having classes on campus in the fall. 

“We have no guarantees,” Bobinski said. “We don't know what the next several months will look like and how it will unfold, but having that aspirational sense of, 'Here's where we intend to go, we're going to work every single day towards that end,' to me is extremely helpful.”

Bobinski, who appeared with an uncharacteristic white beard that he called his “personal protest” against COVID-19, said he feels like the Big Ten has done as well or better than any other conference in remaining in touch and that the league will be as prepared and informed as it can possibly be for the fall sports calendar for that reason.

“We have had an everyday Big Ten athletic directors' conference call with the conference commissioner and other key staff members,” he said. “We do it every single day, which we're the only league in the country that's done that. As a result of that, we're as connected, we're as transparent with each other, we're aware of the initiatives the league has underway.”

Once Bobinski finished, the volleyball duo took the virtual stage and said they have been staying in touch through the pandemic, even though they haven't been able to work out or practice together.

“It's been different and a little weird, but I think we've done a good job at keeping a hold of each other and talking and communicating with each other,” Otec said. “Every week, we have a Zoom meeting with coaches and everybody and then besides that; ... we pretty much talk every day (in smaller groups). It's been nice to have everybody still keeping up with each other.”

On Wednesday, West Noble graduate Maddie Schermerhorn, who is entering her sophomore season as a defensive specialist for the Boilers, took over the Purdue volleyball Instagram account to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at her life during the offseason and take questions from the account's followers. 

One asked how her father, West Noble athletic director Tom Schermerhorn was after spending 26 days in April in the hospital, some of the time on a ventilator, with COVID-19.

“He is great,” Maddie Schermerhorn said in response to the question. “His birthday was last week so it was awesome to have him home. He has therapists seeing him, but he is slowly starting to get back to work.”

She later posted a video of the elder Schermerhorn working in his office and smiling.

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