June 19, 2020

COVID-19 sends APSE 2020 into virtual setting

Andrew Golden

As a result of health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Associated Press Sports Editors summer conference was canceled on April 14. Indianapolis, the city scheduled to host this summer’s meeting, will instead be the site of the 2022 conference at the same planned locations, The Alexander Hotel and IUPUI.

This is the first cancellation in APSE’s 46-year history. But with an in-person convention off the table, APSE announced May 22 that a one-day conference would be held June 26 via Zoom.

Bill Eichenberger, APSE’s executive director, has been a member of the organization since 1986 and noted that although there had been a convention every year since, “We also haven’t had a pandemic in the United States in 100 years.” He added: “It’s just something you could not anticipate.”

Eichenberger said that moving the conference to later in the summer was considered, but wasn’t practical due to timing concerns.

APSE second vice president Gary Potosky initially proposed a shortened, online 2020 convention. He said he hopes the one-day virtual version will still provide an opportunity for participants to learn through panels and interact to some extent..

“This is what our membership deserves,” Potosky said. “We have a mission as an organization to be leaders in this industry, and you do not have to have a summer conference in Indianapolis to be a leader in this industry.”

Convention coordinator Glen Crevier said that as the organization discussed plans for the convention at its winter meetings in February, concerns about the coronavirus outbreak never came up. But he said that by mid-March, there was a realization that the convention may not happen.

ASPE president Todd Adams said future conference dates and locations had to be reshuffled with the postponement of the conference. But he said he and many others felt it would not be safe to host an in-person event this summer.

In addition to the health concerns, Crevier said doubts surfaced about whether people would attend because of travel issues. He also took note of recent newsroom layoffs during the pandemic.

“I began a conversation with the [The Alexander Hotel] in probably early April expressing my concerns about everything,” Crevier said, adding that it soon became “pretty obvious” that going forward with plans wasn’t viable.

After discussions with the hotel, the conference was moved to 2022 and both sides were satisfied, meaning APSE wouldn’t incur any financial penalties.

Eichenberger added that not hosting the convention will cause a small financial strain on the organization because it won’t receive revenue from sponsors. The sponsorship money previously allowed APSE to make a slight profit from the convention.

Of all of the conference’s sponsors, APSE has only received sponsorship money from Major League Soccer. All other sponsors that initially planned to commit were uncertain about providing funding while their seasons are on pause.

Adams said he doesn’t believe that the move to a virtual conference in 2020 will have an impact on future APSE events, and that plans are still in place to host the 2021 winter conference from February 14-17.

“This breaks that incredible streak of consecutive years of having this conference, so that’s kind of a shame,” Crevier said. “But what are you going to do? We had no choice. For health reasons, we couldn’t do it.”

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