When college football finally resumes and the teams return to the field, West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown thinks it might look different than it has in the past, a result of the necessary changes to keep players and staff safe from COVID-19.
Those changes might not be perceptible to anyone other than an expert eye, Brown said, but they could still be there.
“As far as the product, I think you’ll see a simpler product, maybe,” Brown told reporters in a recent Zoom conference. “I don’t know if you’ll have as much time. Practice time will be at a premium. I don’t think you’ll have as much good-on-good work, ones versus ones, as you normally would.
“Will the product be as clean, especially in the beginning of the year? I’m not sure,” he continued. “Will the average fan be able to see that? I’m not sure.”
Practice time will become precious for several reasons. One of the concepts Brown and his staff was mulling over was splitting practice sessions into two groups to make sure the practice field isn’t crammed and players can maintain a proper distance from each other. In between those sessions, staff will need to meticulously clean the equipment to guard against transmission of the virus.
And when those groups do split, the best plan of action might be to keep the first string and second string players apart from each other. That way, Brown said, it’s harder for the virus to tear through the upper echelons of the depth chart.
“When you start thinking about it, you don’t want your top two at any position necessarily practicing or being in the same meeting room,” he said. “You could lose them both.”
While college football may be a simpler look, at least at the start, Brown doesn’t think it will be a bad look. The coaches are too accomplished and the players too talented to drag down the quality of the product.
“I think you have experts in the coaching profession,” he said. “I think you have athletes that are capable of playing at a high level. I think you’ll find coaches who have maximized this virtual learning as much as possible.
“I have faith in the players playing at this level and the coaches that it’s going to be a product that fans of college football will enjoy.”
WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons has joined four other Big 12 ADs in a subcommittee to determine policies and procedures for football scheduling and cancellations in a COVID-19 world.
According to a recent CBSSports.com story, Lyons is working with Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione, TCU AD Jeremiah Donati, Baylor AD Mack Rhoades and Kansas State AD Gene Taylor to figure out the guidelines for postponements and cancellations and forfeits.
“The whole purpose of discussing this is you don’t want to play with a dismantled team,” Lyons told the website. “So what does that look like?”
The story states that early considerations are losing 25 percent of scholarship players to the virus as a threshold, testing protocols and having players cross-train at different positions — offensive and defensive line, receiver and defensive back among them. The recommendations must still go through several stages, including coaches, players, other ADs and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, before it they can be implemented.
Lyons also told the website that the conference still has about a month before it has to make any concrete decisions and another consideration is pushing the Big 12 championship as far as two weeks later.