Imagine a Presidents Day kickoff to the college football season, Falcon Stadium hosting well into April.
Troy Calhoun is preparing for that exact contingency. And some others.
In a candid video chat with local media Tuesday, the Falcons football coach touched on topics ranging from deep conversations with his mother and her lessons learned as a retired emergency room nurse, to his failed attempts at laundry-related domestication during the quarantine, to unexpected opportunities for at-home bonding with his son in the months before he leaves for college to his Air Force players improvising workouts while away from the academy.
“Our country will come out of it stronger, we inevitably do,” said Calhoun, pointing to historical crises like the Civil War, 1918 flu epidemic, World War II and Sept. 11.
But as for the time line for that recovery as it pertains to college football, Calhoun said he’s in the dark like the rest of us.
His staff is preparing as if basic training will begin, as planned, on June 24 and practice will start Aug. 7. But it’s also laying out the approach as if it won’t begin until February.
“That might be kind of interesting, kind of fun,” Calhoun said of a scenario that would have most of the academy’s sports — football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc. —playing concurrently in the late winter and early spring.
And, as his staff meets virtually through Google Hangout, they’re working the plan as if it is even longer before the sport begins.
“It is our obligation to do contingency planning,” Calhoun said.
The rest of operations for the football team are continuing in ways that, in some cases, aren’t all that different than normal. The team put in 13 of its 15 spring practices before the academy sent non-seniors home because of the coronavirus, so the calendar at this point called for players to focus on school and workouts. That’s how it’s working out, even if the workouts have changed. Strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan has sent an outline for running, agility and weight workouts, and the players are improvising with the available resources in their basements, garages and driveways. He not all have access to weights, while some have welded together squat racks.
To Calhoun’s knowledge, COVID-19 has directly touched just one family member of an Air Force football player — resulting in the hospitalization of a player’s grandmother. She has since returned home and is recovering in quarantine.
Recruiting has continued in much the same way it would have under normal circumstances, with coaches calling recruits over the phone, connecting through Facetime, sending texts and direct messages. The only difference is that prospects can’t venture to the academy to look around, but that’s not always possible anyway with the way Air Force recruits nationally.
“We’ll be fine in that regard because everybody’s working under the same circumstances across the country,” Calhoun said. “The one thing we would like to have at some point is for these young men and their families to be able to get out to the United States Air Force Academy. When is that? Time will tell. Hopefully it can be in the summer, but biology and medicine will determine that before we will.”
While Calhoun said the coaches have tried to adjust to their new style of working, he’s trying to keep things as simple as possible for the players.
“Our priorities, we try to make them very, very clear to our guys,” he said. “First it starts with their health, and their family’s health. And then it’s the academic component of it, because that certainly is cranked up, especially this week. And then being able to work out. We’ve been pretty emphatic to make sure that’s where our attention is at this time.”