Yes, the thought of no college football season has crossed Kirk Ferentz’s mind. There’s time for just about everything to cross just about everyone’s mind.
That is the opponent in the circle for everyone, including college football coaches, a lot that hates wasting time and looks at its watch a lot.
“I think anything is possible right now, I think all of us need to realize that,” the Iowa football coach said Wednesday during a teleconference. “Selfishly, and I mean everyone involved in our football program, we all want to get back to work tomorrow. We miss this, it’s what we do. I know all of you feel the same way.”
“We all miss this. But the bigger picture is what does it mean if we’re not back?” Ferentz said. “That’s not good. What’s it mean if we’re not able to return to some semblance of normality with our daily lives three months from now? That means we have bigger problems than missing football or this or that. That’s the bottom line.”
Ferentz was one of the first college football coaches to record what has to be termed as a “public service announcement” on staying home and trying to flatten the curve of COVID-19.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) March 23, 2020
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He repeated that more than a few times during 45 minutes with reporters. The topic has and remains a front-of-house issue with Ferentz. He talked about watching Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx during national news conferences.
“I thought their presentation yesterday put a lot of things into perspective for people who don’t understand a lot of things, someone like me, a little better understanding of how important it is what we do here the next month and just how important it is that we all do our part to help the country and the world get our feet back on the ground and have a chance to have some normalcy in our lives again.”
March 13 was the last time the Hawkeye football team met en masse. Since, the Hansen Performance Center has been closed. The weight room is closed. No workouts are being conducted. Players who reside in Iowa City can pick up nutritional supplements by appointment.
Ferentz wanted his players and staff to go home, find a base and stay safe.
Individual workouts are going on and now everyone knows what Zoom is for video meetings (Ferentz mentioned offensive lineman and graduate Levi Paulsen landing a job with Zoom). It sort of sounds like when a prospect commits to the Hawkeyes, and strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle sends a workout program for the commit to follow. Ferentz compared this to the old days when summer conditioning wasn’t mandatory (it’s technically not mandatory now, but try keeping players away). Players would take whatever the strength coach gave them, did the workouts at their high schools or wherever and then showed up for fall camp.
Of course, most players can’t do the high school thing, with the virus closing that off. One slice of normalcy is that workout groups have been broken into the “Hawkeye Championship” teams that Doyle organizes during summer conditioning.
Ferentz referenced a team meeting from Wednesday morning. One thing he’s found out from players? They miss the vegetables that were regularly available at the Hansen Center.
“I never thought I’d hear our players say this miss vegetables,” Ferentz said. “That’s one thing that has come out of this. Little bit of levity there.”
On March 15, Ferentz realized that any long-term plans were worthless.
“What if we only have three weeks of spring ball? What if the guys don’t get back until mid-April?” he said. “One thing I told the staff and players on March 13, my encouragement was don’t burn too many brain cells on what future plans are going to be, because whatever they are today, you’ll rip it up the next day and start all over.
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“On the 15th, I was making plans on starting spring practice in mid-April. Needless to say, that went out the window a few weeks ago. Nobody really knows what the future is going to look like. No one has any idea when we’ll all next be together as a football team or when we’ll starting training together again.”
Practically, Iowa is one of a few programs that didn’t begin spring practice. If football lurched back into a real possibility, Ferentz would have concerns about an even playing field coming out of spring.
How much time would it take to get a football team ready to play a season, whenever that happens?
Ferentz said he’d want to see four weeks of strength and conditioning and then four weeks of a camp-like practice setting. Losing spring, he said, hurts because the practices and meetings aren’t in front of a game, so the concepts/training could soak. Also, team chemistry is an element that’s simply left hanging.
“Optimistically, if we had a chance to get working and had a two-month period, I don’t know if the NCAA would integrate what the NFL calls ‘OTAs’ or some walk-through or some tempo work, that’d be great,” Ferentz said. “It’s all up for grabs right now. I think bare bones minimum we’d want the strength and conditioning staff four weeks to work with the team before we really started to think about practicing aggressively.
“That’s about as close as you can cut it, quite frankly. In the world we’re living in right now, four weeks would be OK getting ready for the season.”
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