Ryan Prickett still has plenty of work to do. He just isn’t spending time in press boxes this spring.
Prickett, a Salina native and a Sacred Heart graduate, is in his 15th year as sports information director at Fort Hays State University, has seen his schedule change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of keeping statistics at a baseball game at Larks Park, Prickett is working from home as part of a university-wide shutdown of being on campus.
“The events themselves, it’s weird not having those,” said Prickett, who is in charge of overseeing 18 sports at FHSU. “That’s really the main thing that changes my job quite a bit.”
Prickett, his assistant and his graduate assistant started working from home on Thursday, a week to the day after the collegiate sports world turned upside down. On March 12, the day before the FHSU women’s basketball team was to start play in an NCAA regional in Warrensburg, Mo., Prickett left Hays that morning for the tournament, keeping an eye on his email as he made his way eastward across the state. The NBA had just suspended its season and Prickett had a feeling the NCAA would be next. Prickett had just gotten past Lawrence when he got an email that the NCAA Championships had been canceled.
“That was a weird feeling,” Prickett said.
The MIAA also announced that day that spring sports would be suspended, effective at the end of the day. FHSU was playing baseball at Larks Park and the softball team was on the road. So Prickett made stops in parking lots along the way back to Hays to write news releases about the end of spring sports, as well as game recaps for baseball and softball.
“It was a really unique day,” Prickett said.
The MIAA later canceled all spring sports. With no spring sports to update, Prickett is able to get a head start on planning for upcoming sports that he normally would put off until later. He is working under the assumption there will be sports in the fall, but added the future is uncertain. The health of fans and athletes alike takes precedence.
“With the way things are going right now, who even knows what the future start date is to get back to normal,” Prickett said. “That’s the great unknown right now. That’s the scary thing; we could get going again and all of a sudden there is a flareup again, we shut everything down again.”
Members of the FHSU athletic department are taking the ever-changing events in stride, Prickett said.
“I think everybody is taking it pretty seriously,” Prickett said. “I think the mood has been a quiet calm. We’re just kind of rolling with the punches right now. Once we get new information, we get together and talk about what we’re going to do going forward.”
Prickett is keeping busy, but he admits he misses seeing Tiger athletes in action.
“I definitely miss the games,” Prickett said with a laugh. “That’s part of the job I really find enjoyment in.
“It’s tough,” he added. “It’s just not our sports. It’s the professional sports world, all of the college sports. It’s just a weird deal right now, not being able to see any kind of live sports going on.”