Seven weeks away from the one-year anniversary of the shutdown of college athletics due to COVID-19, the sports world continues to adjust to the pandemic.
In a Jan. 19 appearance on Texas A&M Athletics’ Aggie Town Hall, Director of Athletics Ross Bjork gave some updates as the Aggies head into the spring under the new COVID-19 protocols.
“In some ways it has gone by so fast, in other ways it’s been this slow churn of protocols, being as safe as possible, moving things, shutting down,” Bjork said. “Just a lot of emotion, and I know people are tired, I know there’s some weariness that we have among staff, coaches, athletes.”
As Bjork reflected on the changes over the past year, he said one constant has been prioritizing the safety of A&M’s athletes while also finding a way for them to play. These precautions included testing out the A&M engineering department’s new COVID-19 breathalyzer test over the winter break.
“We always said, if we’re allowed to, if it’s safe, it’s our obligation to move forward and put our athletes in the safest environment possible,” Bjork said. “We’ve never backed away from that. Protocols are in place, safety parameters are in place.”
Despite the advances in testing methods and the release of COVID-19 vaccines, these improvements don’t mean everything has been running as smoothly as scheduled.
Less than an hour before the town hall, which was streamed live on Facebook, A&M men’s basketball announced its Jan. 20 matchup at Vanderbilt was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Commodores’ program.
Though the 2020 football season concluded almost two weeks ago, Bjork said fans should expect the release of the 2021 schedule within the next few weeks.
As one of the conference’s 14 athletic directors, Bjork said he sees a model of the schedule two years in advance, and can give his input on the order of games, though the amount of say he has is minimal as any alteration “has to fit the puzzle.”
“There’s 14 teams. We’re not the only one that can say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to move that Alabama game to Nov. 13,’” Bjork said. “That has a domino effect on other games.”
Football wasn’t the only sports schedule Bjork discussed during the town hall, as the SEC has released the full schedule for baseball and the conference schedule for softball. Bjork said the nonconference schedule for softball should be released soon.
Bjork said while nothing is finalized yet, he expects capacity at Blue Bell Park will be set at 25 to 30 percent for the 2021 season, and the number of season ticket holders will “dictate final capacity.”
“We’re fortunate that we’re able to host fans in a safe-as-possible environment,” Bjork said.
The full conference schedules for baseball and softball are below:
2021 A&M baseball full schedule
- Feb. 19-21 vs. Xavier
- Feb. 23-24 vs. Abilene Christian
- Feb. 26-28 @ Round Rock Classic
- March 2 vs. Houston Baptist
- March 3 vs. Incarnate Word
- March 5-7 vs. New Mexico State
- March 9 vs. A&M-Corpus Christi
- March 12-14 vs. Samford
- March 16 @ Houston
- March 19-21 @ Florida
- March 23 vs. Rice
- March 26-28 vs. Georgia
- March 30 vs. Texas
- April 1-3 @ Missouri
- April 6 @ Sam Houston State
- April 9-11 vs. Alabama
- April 13 @ Texas State
- April 16-18 @ Arkansas
- April 20 vs. Texas Southern
- April 23-25 vs. Tennessee
- April 27 vs. Texas State
- April 30-May 2 @ Mississippi State
- May 4 @ UT Arlington
- May 7-9 vs. Ole Miss
- May 14-16 @ Auburn
- May 20-22 vs. LSU
- May 25-30 SEC Tournament
2021 A&M softball conference schedule
- Feb. 19-21 Texas A&M Invitational
- March 5-7 Reveille Classic
- March 19-21 @ LSU
- March 26-28 vs. South Carolina
- April 1-3 @ Alabama
- April 9-11 vs. Auburn
- April 16-18 vs. Ole Miss
- April 23-25 @ Mississippi State
- April 30-May 2 vs. Kentucky
- May 7-9 @ Florida
- May 12-15 SEC Tournament