With no games scheduled this fall, East Tennessee State’s football team has been “practicing.” And Bucs coach Randy Sanders says he’s been using that term loosely.
“It’s nice to get out there on the football field,” Sanders said during a Zoom videoconference. “I don’t know that I really call what we’re doing practice. I think some of the young players … that’s honestly one of my worst fears, giving them the wrong impression about what college football is all about because so far from a physical standpoint it’s been pretty easy.”
The Bucs have been working out together despite having their season postponed until the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve been allowed 12 hours a week together and only five of those hours include spending time on the field. There has been very little hitting because the players haven’t been allowed to be in pads. Those rules are expected to change Oct. 4 when the NCAA makes its next ruling.
“Hopefully, once we get through Oct. 4, we’ll be able to put on pads and have a so-called ‘spring practice,’ ” Sanders said, “where you get so many days to put on gear and go out and actually practice football, see who can block, see if we can actually tackle, see who can run the football, see which quarterback can stand in there with the rush really crashing around them.”
All this preparation is for a spring season that isn’t even set in stone yet. The SoCon and NCAA have not announced official plans for the spring. Schedules haven’t been released because everybody is still in a wait-and-see mode.
“I think we’re all kind of waiting to see how the SEC and the ACC teams that are playing, how all these things do in the fall,” Sanders said. “If you’re able to play a full schedule and have no problems, then I think it would be absolutely ludicrous for us not to play in the spring. If something happens and it gets shut down here in a couple of weeks, then the spring probably gets thrown back up in the air. So hopefully things go well in the ACC, the SEC, the Big 12. I think if they go well, then there’s certainly no reason why we can’t play in the spring and have people in the stands at least to some degree.”
Three Southern Conference teams — The Citadel, Chattanooga and Western Carolina — have decided to play a few non-conference games this fall as permitted by the SoCon in its decision to postpone all conference fall sports until the spring.
As bad as Sanders wants to be coaching games, he didn’t want to just play a partial schedule this fall.
“You know I’d like to be playing right now,” Sanders said. “I think we’ve got a number of coaches that would like to be playing right now. I think we’ve got a lot of administrators that would like to be playing. If there was any way we could have played a nine-, 10-, 11-game season season, I would have been all for it, not necessarily for two or three or four ‘money’ games just strictly for the money. I didn’t want to have to explain to parents, while I was putting their son out there to play games two or three times, just for the month. I didn’t think that was the right thing for us to do. If we’re trying to win football games, competing to win championships, yes, absolutely. But to just go out there and play game for money from a personal standpoint, I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”