SOUTH BEND — The recent chain of events regarding the coronavirus pandemic likely left Alexander Ehrensberger wondering where he should live this month.
The early-enrolled freshman defensive end at Notre Dame is committed to staying home in Düsseldorf, Germany, for now, according to university officials. It’s not the way he envisioned his spring break trip back home playing out.
In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Notre Dame announced Wednesday that next week’s classes were canceled and online courses would be instituted from March 23 through April 13. Only a select amount of students, with approval from the university, could return to campus and stay in their undergraduate residence halls.
Ehrensberger and his fellow Irish football teammates were granted that approval. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, players were informed later that day that they were to still return to South Bend by no later than 8 p.m. on Sunday. Spring practices were to resume next Tuesday.
As Wednesday progressed and coronavirus cases continually increased nationally, universities and organizations across multiple sports began to take precautionary measures. Most notably, the NBA indefinitely suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus.
At Notre Dame, there were mixed opinions among Irish players and their families about how to move forward. But there were ultimately some who felt uneasy and balked at the idea of returning for practices, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Notre Dame reversed course on Thursday, announcing the indefinite suspension of all football-related activities, and the cancellation of the March 26-28 annual coaches clinic and the annual Blue-Gold Game on April 18.
“In alignment with the University of Notre Dame’s decision to suspend in-person classes and the athletic department’s decision to suspend activities for teams not in their competitive season, I have asked our student-athletes not to return to campus until further notice,” head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. ... In addition, we will not be hosting any recruits or recruiting activities on campus until further notice.”
Ehrensberger’s plan to fly back to South Bend needed to be reevaluated. His situation matched the seemingly ever-changing nature of the coronavirus news cycle.
Matters became more complicated on Wednesday evening, when President Donald Trump announced a 30-day travel ban from 26 European countries — including Germany — that involved several contingencies and would go into effect by 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday. Ehrensberger committed to residing in Germany for the time being on Thursday.
Whether Ehrensberger could be granted approval from the United States remains unknown, but Notre Dame prepared for the scenario. He still has the option to come back to Notre Dame and stay, and would be accommodated without complications, according to university officials.
Had he been en route to South Bend as Notre Dame suspended all football-related activities, and had the university not established a system that included accommodating these international situations, Ehrensberger could have been looking for a place to stay in the United States.
Would Ehrensberger need to find lodging off campus? Would he have to stay with a teammate? An Irish coach with NCAA permission?
None of those questions need to be answered now, even if Ehrensberger changes his mind and is able to return to the United States before Notre Dame’s in-person classes resume.