Craig Pintens gives an address outside Hannon Library on campus. In his third year in charge of LMU sports, the athletic director has been tasked with navigating student-athletes through the coronavirus pandemic. 

2020 has been far from a normal year for sports in this country. Beginning with the NBA shutdown in early March, the pandemic disrupted sporting competition in a nearly unprecedented manner. Both professional and collegiate athletes alike have been forced to grapple with COVID-19 and its hold on our everyday lives. Navigating the sporting world during the pandemic has proven a unique test complicated by local outbreaks and ever-changing restrictions. In his third year in charge of the LMU athletic department, Craig Pintens has handled this challenge on behalf of the University.

“Well it certainly has been a challenge,” said Pintens on his role as athletic director during the pandemic. “Because very often throughout the course of the pandemic, you can spend a lot of time on planning and thinking that you have all the protocols in place. And by the afternoon those can all be a moot point because something has changed. And so as long as you're able to adapt and react to the change and react efficiently you can operate. It’s been a challenge. But it’s been a challenge for everybody and I think the thing to remind yourself is that everybody is going through the same thing to a certain extent.”

Pintens took the role as LMU’s athletic director in 2018 after serving a seven-year term as a senior associate athletic director at the University of Oregon. The Marquette Law graduate arrived at the Bluff with a wealth of collegiate sporting administration experience earned at top tier D1 programs. 2020 would push the boundaries of his expertise as the pandemic forced campus closures across the country.

On March 12, LMU announced that it would be canceling its spring sports mid-season in accordance with NCAA guidance. This was followed by further disruption in August as the WCC voted to postpone all fall 2020 athletic seasons to the spring of 2021. Amid all of this, Pintens was tasked with directing the experience of LMU’s student-athletes as the pandemic evolved.

On his personal process of decision making during the pandemic, Pintens remarked, “I would like to think that we’re trying to approach the same way we would any other decision. And that we want to make sure we collaborate and ensure that the people that need to be informed of difficult decisions and need to understand difficult decisions are brought into the process. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to that at times is the fact that sometimes we don’t have the capability of time to be able to do that.”

Although the speculative nature of COVID-19 response measures has caused issues for LMU, the University has faired well in making accommodations for its athletes during the pandemic. The school has been able to make adjustments to its on-campus athletic facilities in addition to providing a testing program for student-athletes. According to Pintens, LMU was able to have every one of its athletic teams train at the University this fall – an impressive feat given the nature of the pandemic in Los Angeles County.

With the fall semester nearing its end, LMU will now turn toward the busiest spring for athletics the University has ever had. With their seasons pushed back several months, fall sports teams will find themselves in season during the same time as the Lions’ spring programs. This intersection comes at a crucial time for the pandemic in America as cases reach new highs and vaccines inch closer to government approval.

“I’m optimistic,” responded Pintens on the outlook of LMU sports during the period from now until the end of the school year. “There’s nothing I love more than anything about working in athletics than watching our student-athletes compete. I think we have a great plan in place right now for all of our protocols, our testing. And when we welcome back our student-athletes, who are not on campus right now ... I’m confident that we’ll be able to play and compete providing things stay the way they are.”

The pandemic has deprived those who study and work at LMU of their respective on-campus experiences. There is plenty to miss for every Lion, some things bearing more weight than others. However, for Pintens, the thing he is looking forward to the most is simply being able to walk to work again through the back gates from his home in Westchester.

“I live right around the corner and I love walking into campus every day through the back gates," he said. "It sounds like a really simple thing but I love being part of LMU. My family loves being a part of LMU. The thing I miss most is having my family being a part of LMU and being at games. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most, my family just being able to walk right back on campus.”

Nick is a Junior AIMS major from Orange, California. He enjoys Mexican food, soccer, and dogs.

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