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Utah moving on despite the loss of this fall’s football season

For now, the primary emphasis will be on conditioning, with an eye on a possible spring season.

Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) runs for yardage in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.
Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) runs for yardage in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Word of the Pac-12’s decision not to play football this fall was met with obvious disappointment at the University of Utah. Junior receiver Britain Covey said there’s been a combination of emotion for the two-time defending Pac-12 South champions.

“It was really frustrating not knowing what was going to happen. It was also frustrating feeling like it was out of your control — like you were just at mercy to what everyone else was going to decide,” Covey said. “And so it was frustrating and almost a release when we finally had a clear answer.”

Covey, who noted that a lot of preparation had gone into the 2020 season, said it was both exciting and mentally exhausting. The latter, he added, kind of wore guys down because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pac-12 CEO Group (chancellors and presidents) ultimately opted to scrap plans for a 10-game “conference-only” season. Commissioner Larry Scott cited the primary reason for doing so in making the announcement.

“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” he said.

As it turned out, the Pac-12 and Big Ten are the ignobly Power Five conferences that have chosen not to play. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC are giving it a go.

“I believe that we have really good people advocating for us. I believe that they made a smart decision. What’s hard is to see other conferences playing and them feeling the exact same way — that they’re making a smart a decision,” Covey said. “And you just wonder what it’s being based off of completely. I really admire the approach that I felt like was taken from behalf of our doctors.”

Covey added that Utah coach Kyle Whittingham set up a call for the team leadership council to speak with doctors involved with the decision. He said it helped bring clarity to the situation and an understanding of why such precautions were being taken.

As such, Covey explained that he understands both perspectives.

“I personally don’t know how plausible it is to play a season right now, but I know if it were up to a lot of players, most players would want to play,” Covey said. “So if there’s a way to satisfy both things — be safe and play — I say do it.”

Covey supports playing a spring season if health conditions permit. He considers it very realistic, perhaps an eight-game slate instead of waiting a year to get guys back on the field.

“If you do it right and mix in a couple of bye weeks, it is plausible for your body to be able to handle that,“ Covey said.

While waiting for any definitive plans for any sort of season to materialize, the Utes will operate under NCAA guidelines of no more than 12 hours of countable athletic activities per week from Aug. 24 through Oct. 4. Utah’s primary emphasis will be on conditioning.

The team leadership council met with Whittingham and discussed their feelings on continual preparation. Covey emphasized that Whittingham is such a players coach and was receptive to establishing a cooperative plan over the next couple of months.

“You don’t want to ramp things up too quickly, especially with the uncertainty of the spring season,” Covey said. “So I think we’re going to have a good balance of things. But the main focus will just be on building our bodies to the perfect conditions for what we want to be.”

The emphasis, Covey continued, will be on lifting and getting bigger. That’s where the majority of time will be spent. Three practices per week will also be scheduled, light sessions to fine-tune things and take care of install.

“If there is a spring season, we can jump right into things,” Covey said