Imagine preparing all week for an opponent, studying game film and player personnel, to then have the game get cancelled hours before leaving for the airport. That is what happened to the Arizona Wildcats in week one.
Or how about rescheduling a game to a Sunday afternoon? This is what the UCLA Bruins and Cal Golden Bears agreed upon within a 48-hour time frame.
This is a glimpse of trying to navigate a college football season in 2020 amidst a global pandemic.
“Everyone is on high alert, 24/7, you know, defcon 5. That’s an 80’s term from an old 80’s movie.,” said Oregon head football coach Mario Cristobal on Monday. “We’re on high alert. No one wrote a handbook for this thing. I think as time goes on and scenarios pop up, everybody’s got to put their heads together and try to figure out what the best scenario is for the players.
“For the sake of the season and the guys who have actually opted in and gone all in and have played.”
That was a major question that players had to ask themselves looking ahead to what this shortened, seven-game season would be: Is it worth it to play? The risk of injury, the risk of getting COVID-19, the lack of national recognition, but on the other hand, one more chance for game film ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft and one more opportunity to play football with friends and family.
On Friday, November 13, the UCLA Bruins and Utah Utes were notified that their upcoming game the next day was cancelled due to Utah not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game. The very same day, Cal and Arizona State were cancelled as well.
Instead of not playing, UCLA and Cal decided to schedule a game for Sunday morning at 9 a.m. (PT). And it worked.
“It’d be like drinking from a fire hose. It’s come at you very quick, but you’d have to do it,” said Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead when asked what it would be like to reschedule a game on such short notice. “It would be a ready-fire-aim situation. You’d find out what games you’d have available, break it down as quickly as possible, put a plan together, practice it, get on the field and play.
In week one, Oregon was hours away from kickoff against the Stanford Cardinal when it was made known that Cardinal quarterback Davis Mills and a few other players were ruled out due to COVID-19 testing and contract tracing. Later on, a report came out saying those tests were a false positive.
Last Saturday against the Washington State Cougars in Pullman, WA, 19 Oregon scholarship players were unavailable for the game hours before kickoff. After the game, Cristobal had this to say:
"Those guys have done absolutely nothing wrong. Those guys are awesome human beings they just were not available tonight. Because they weren’t available and that’s gonna be the comment on it."
Anything can happen during this 2020 season and as Cristobal stated above, there is no handbook on how to navigate this year. The Ducks and the rest of college football have to continue to make adjustments on the fly and do their best to prepare for the unexpected.
Watch more in the video above.
Kickoff time between the No. 10 Oregon Ducks (2-0) and the UCLA Bruins (1-1) is still yet to be determined on Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.