PROVO — In two weeks, BYU and Navy kick off their football seasons in Annapolis, Maryland. It will be the culmination of an offseason like no other.
While the Cougars and Midshipmen have been diligently going through COVID-19 protocols, working out in seclusion, keeping groups to the smallest numbers possible, and undergoing frequent testing, other leagues that pulled the plug are feeling the heat.
The Big Ten had a protest by parents of players at league headquarters this past week, capping a letter-and petition-writing campaign questioning the transparency of the action taken by the commissioner and most of the presidents.
Weird thing is, Big Ten athletic directors and many of the coaches say they were not included in any discussions or decisions, but they are feeling the heat from fans, boosters, players and their parents.
There are rumors some Big Ten teams want to create a schedule among themselves and just go ahead and play.
Report: six Big Ten schools, led by Ohio State, are attempting to play a home and home schedule this fall. Just when you think the Big Ten rebellion stories can’t get any wilder, they do: https://t.co/N1uqmKkgJf— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) August 19, 2020
There is a demand for documents, studies, recommendations from experts and the science used to make such a decision. Big Ten’s rookie commissioner, Kevin Warren, is under fire.
“The commissioner was operating in silos, and the silos weren’t connected. And, in the end, that created varying degrees of communication not being delivered,” according to Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos in an interview with the Omaha World Herald, cited by Garrett Stepien of 247Sports.com.
Warren’s own son at Mississippi State is slated to play in the SEC this fall. How crazy is that?
In the meantime, Navy and BYU have shifted their practices to game preparation by creating scout teams. It is time to gear up, study up and prepare for a nationally televised game, some real Monday night football sans the NFL.
This past week, BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes was asked by reporters if he thought BYU had gotten the preparation needed for a season opener amid the COVID-19 pandemic and complete shake-up of routines.
“Aside from some minor challenges in communication, there have been really no setbacks, other than what we would have done up to this point,” Grimes said.
“Just not having spring ball and not having the ability to meet face to face with our players for the past five months, I think set us back to some extent,” he continued. “Certainly we aren’t where we could be had we had a full spring and more time with our players over the previous five months.
“However, one of the things that I said during the quarantine to a number of people who asked me how I felt about it was I felt we were in an advantaged position when you compare us to other programs for two reasons.
“One, we have a lot of experience coming back on offense. The guys we’re going to be playing with this year are mainly guys who already know the offense so there’s a lot of continuity there,” Grimes said. “Then, the offense because we’re running is the same offense that we’ve been running. And then, the other advantage is we have players who were willing to work on their own, whether they were here in town working or whether they were somewhere else on their own working in a garage gym and running at the local park.
“I felt like we had guys that would show up in shape. And that’s been true. So we’ve been able to get a lot done the past three weeks because our guys were willing to work when they were away from us.”
Up until the cancellation of the season, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and a myriad of Group of Five leagues felt much the same. The players did as they were asked. They quarantined, they did workouts on their own, and when allowed to return to campus, they too followed NCAA guidelines.
Then the first week of August hit and it was all pulled from them.
The frustration is understandable.
As ESPN senior writer Adam Rittenberg wrote, “Coaches, administrators, players and fans that ESPN spoke with across the Big Ten are equally or more upset about the timing, process, rationale and lack of communication between the Aug. 5 schedule release and Aug. 9, when ESPN first reported that the large majority of Big Ten presidents favored postponement. They want to know if there was a formal vote on Aug. 11 and how each school sided; they want to know the specific reasons for postponement, and if Warren pushed presidents to pull the plug so early, as many around the league claim, or if they were ready on their own; and, they want to know what’s next for a potential winter or spring season.”
Then, there’s Provo, where the only major college football in the West is played and preparations are in high gear.
The Cougar Club even posted a marketing video from LaVell Edwards Stadium taken during a practice last week. New Cougar Club assistant director Isaac Wood enthusiastically reported on Twitter about being there and it was one of 365 reasons to join the club.
Nah, he wasn’t rubbing it in.
Passion and enthusiasm in a few square miles in the West and major anxiety in Power Five country.
What a college football world we live in these days.