SALT LAKE CITY — It’s getting to be late August and the Utah Utes have gone more than one week without a football practice. The coronavirus pandemic and the Pac-12’s decision not to play this fall has obviously altered the routine as classes begin up on the hill.
“This is unchartered territory for me and most of our coaches as far as here it is Aug. 25 or whatever and no football going on for us — no fall camp, no preparations for the season,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a Zoom conference with the media Tuesday morning. “And so it’s very unique, but we’re just forging ahead.”
Whittingham said the whole team is back in town for school. They took the last week off after the season was officially delayed and plan to get back into some sort of practice routine next week. The plan is to be in the weight room on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then on the field on Thursdays and Fridays.
“At least that’s hopefully what we’ll be able to do. We’re still waiting on a few more details on what we can and can’t do on the field,” Whittingham said. “So we’ll just respond accordingly once we get all the particulars.”
A routine, limited to 12 hours per week by the NCAA, should be in place during what normally is the start of football season.
“We’ve got to follow the recommendations of the medical team and they’ve been at this for months now literally,” said Whittingham, who added that the experts concluded that putting a halt to the fall season was in order. “It was tough news to give to the team. They were all disappointed. They want to play, obviously. They’re football players, they want to play football. But it’s beyond our control. Nothing we can do about it.”
As such, the Utes have set their sights on whatever is next, and that’s next week’s routine and getting started back on training.
The possibility of a spring season is still possible, albeit with fewer games than the fall.
“I think it’s doable. Is it likely? I think right now it’s probable 50/50 at best,” said Whittingham, who noted that it’s critical that the 2021 fall season goes off as normal.
All talk, though, is still in the infancy stages and Whittingham noted that a lot of ground has to be covered first.
“We just see what happens. It’s plausible. I think it’ll be a clearer picture in the ensuing three or four weeks.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on the possibilities of spring football
“We just see what happens,” he said. “It’s plausible. I think it’ll be a clearer picture in the ensuing three or four weeks.”
Whittingham applauded the NCAA’s decision to not have players lose eligibility by playing a spring season. He explained there wasn’t much appetite for players to participate in an abbreviated season and have it count. The eligibility issue made it a “whole different ballgame for our guys.”
Seniors, Whittingham continued, have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They can still opt for the NFL draft after a spring season and not count toward a fall scholarship count if a decision is made to come back and play.
A few other items of note:
— Whittingham acknowledged that a “pro day” may be held this fall to assist those players preparing for NFL opportunities who won’t get a chance to play college ball this season.
“We’re looking at all possibilities,” Whittingham said.
— No Utes have discussed or requested a transfer with Whittingham because the team isn’t playing this fall.
“No one has approached me and I’ve heard no secondhand information about anyone who is thinking along these lines,” he said.
— As a guy deeply rooted in football, Whittingham admits this fall will be a bit of a challenge.
“It’s going to be different,” he said.
The current plan, Whittingham explained, is for coaches and players to have Saturdays and Sundays off. He added that it’ll be a plus to be able sit and watch games that are taking place.
“I think we’ll keep busy,” he said. “I know we’ll keep busy.”