FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – The Fresno State football team hasn’t suited up in full pads since its regular season finale on November 30th. And the Bulldogs did not have spring, summer nor fall practices due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But they have been given the green light to play, and the ‘Dogs are ready to hit the ground running.
“We really were on it very quickly, less than a week after we left campus on March 12th,” said head coach Kalen DeBoer on Friday, after it was announced that the Mountain West Conference was going to have an eight-game season. “We were rolling and very aggressive and teaching our guys as a new staff. And we were very eager and very excited to make sure our guys were learning what they needed to learn.”
Learning to adapt will be key for Fresno State, as well as the rest of the Mountain West Conference.
“Everything is unique this year, we’re adjusting on the fly,” said conference commissioner Craig Thompson.
On Thursday, presidents from the 12 Mountain West football schools voted “yes” on returning to play this fall. They will try to play an eight-game conference scheduling, beginning on October 24th. Players, coaches and trainers will be tested three times each week for the coronavirus, which was a game-changer for the conference to move forward.
“I really think it goes back to the rapid antigen testing,” said Thompson. “And with Quest’s support and partnership, it really started to turn probably in the last couple of days.”
The Mountain West Conference will cover the cost of testing, which will be well into the millions of dollars. The money is coming from its reserve fund.
Commissioner Thompson also added that if there are teams that cannot play a game (or games) due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the game (or games) missed will not be rescheduled.
“I can’t say postponed because we are in an eight-game, eight-week window,” he said. “There is no place to reschedule it. I would fully anticipate that not all 12 institutions in the Mountain West will play eight games for various reasons just based on what we’ve seen the first three weeks of the season.”
As for the physical preparation for the season, Fresno State is the last Mountain West program to return to campus for team workouts. Should the university be concerned with injuries for this upcoming, condensed season?
“There is a philosophy that could lead toward the fact that our student-athletes may be in a better state that there’s not gonna be wear and tear on their bodies,” said Fresno State Director of Athletics Terry Tumey, pointing out that none of the players went through spring ball nor summer workouts.
Added DeBoer, “We’ve got a great staff that’s all over it and very sensitive to the subject as far as taking care of our guys’ bodies. And we’ve already altered practice plans and reps based on what we’re seeing.
“What we’re trying to do is build this culture in this program. It’s not about what we can’t do, it’s about what we can do.”