I think it's safe to say I've had the most abnormal tenure as sports editor in the history of The Daily Tar Heel.
For just the second time in Roy Williams' career at Chapel Hill, the UNC basketball team failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. That would have been unusual (and challenging) enough — except for the fact that the spread of the novel coronavirus has led not only to the cancellation of March Madness, but also to the suspension of all University winter and spring sports for the foreseeable future.
The question for us becomes: how do you cover UNC sports when there are no UNC sports?
First I should say this is obviously very, very unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Tons of publications, including the DTH, are doing crucial work to keep people updated on the spread of the coronavirus and its global medical impact; the virus' effect on sports in Chapel Hill is, comparatively, small potatoes.
Still, we have a job to do. The way I see it, our coverage for the next few months will fall into four general categories:
1. Features and enterprise pieces, just like we would normally be doing. There are no games to cover, but there are still athletes to profile, teams to learn about and issues to explore.
Of course, we'll be finding out as much as we can about the impact of COVID-19 on all of the aforementioned. What will this mean for Tar Heel seniors who may never get a chance to compete again? For coaches who can't hit the recruiting trail? For teams that were contending for a title?
2. Fun stuff. We'll be continuing (and possibly expanding) our weekly column series, and will look for other opportunities to let staffers show their writing chops in an opinionated format.
3. Looking back. What went wrong for UNC basketball this season? What went right for, say, the 2005 national championship team? Everything is fair game, and we want to put many past experiences under the microscope.
4. Looking ahead. If spring sports get cancelled altogether, what does that mean for teams like UNC women's lacrosse, the No. 1 team in the country? What should we expect this fall from UNC field hockey, the reigning back-to-back national champions? How will Roy Williams' incoming recruiting class help ensure that the Tar Heels don't suffer another losing season?
With all of that said — we'd love to hear your ideas about sports coverage for the rest of this school year, and for as long as the coronavirus is a huge part of daily life. Get in touch with me at email@example.com, or with the desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I see the coming months as a fun challenge coverage-wise, despite the dire circumstances that brought that challenge about. I also see our job as a crucial way to give people some semblance of normalcy in these bizarre times. Stay safe out there.
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