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CU Buffs hope for level playing field when football practices resume

Colorado one of three Pac-12 schools that never got spring football practices started

BOULDER, CO – November 23, 2019: Colorado’s Alex Fontenot breaks one open against Washington during the game in Boulder on November 23, 2019. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Although nobody knows when college football teams will be able to return to practice, Colorado athletic director Rick George hopes efforts will be made to level the playing field a bit when practices do resume.

CU, which was scheduled to begin spring football on March 16, never got going after the coronavirus pandemic caused widespread cancellations of sports at all levels.

CU, Washington and Washington State – the three Pac-12 teams with new coaches – were the only conference schools that had not yet started spring practice, although Southern California got just one practice in before the shut down. The other eight all had at least three practices, with Arizona State and Stanford conducting seven of their 15 allowed practices.

Colorado State, which opens the season Sept. 5 against the Buffs, also got seven practices in. CU’s other two non-conference opponents, Fresno State and Texas A&M, had not started spring practice.

For CU, the lack of spring football is particularly tough because head coach Karl Dorrell was hired so late in the offseason, on Feb. 23.

“We’ve got a football coach that was only hired three or four weeks ago and built his staff a couple weeks ago,” George said. “We haven’t really had the opportunity to build the culture that you want and all the things around it. I don’t know if it’s practice that is so important as much as it creating that culture that you have with your football team. It’s very difficult to do when you do it virtually.”

For now, there’s no telling when stay-at-home orders will be lifted or when schools could practice, although it likely won’t be before June. CU will try to have “spring” practices in the summer, if that’s possible. George said he at least hopes there will be some changes to the rules that limit contact between players and coaches over the summer.

“I think what you’ll see is maybe some modifications of rules and regulations during that time frame that would give coaches more time to spend on instructional things, where it hasn’t been allowed in the past,” he said.

CSU head coach Steve Addazio, in his first year with the Rams, held a video conference with media on Wednesday, as well, and said teams like CU and CSU, with new coaches are already at a disadvantage with limited or no spring practice.

“We were fortunate enough to get seven practices in, but those other eight practices were critical,” Addazio said. “I think this is particularly difficult for programs that are starting with new coaching staffs, because you don’t have everything in place yet.”

Last week in a conference call, Dorrell said he was hopeful that the season would be played in full. Addazio has the same hope and said he’s got his mind on starting the season Sept. 5 against the Buffs.

“I remain positive and very optimistic,” he said. “In my heart of hearts. I know that our leadership in our country will do everything to make our players, our people, our families as safe as they can possibly be. Within there, the hope would be that we’ve got to get our lives going back and hopefully all the efforts we’re all doing right now … we can flatten this out so that at some point, whenever they deem it safe, we can start to resume some sense of normalcy.”

For the time being, coaches are allowed two hours per week with players, but the Pac-12 is hoping the NCAA will expand that to four.

“It’s challenging for everybody to be able to communicate appropriately and effectively with your student-athletes and to have more time with them, as long as it doesn’t go over their class commitments and their tutor appointments and all those kind of things,” George said. “We think it makes a lot of sense to be able to engage them more, particularly at a time when we’re not able to meet with them face to face or have any activities in person.”

Notable

Addazio, who spent the previous seven years coaching at Boston College, conducted his video conference with media from his home in Cape Cod, Mass. Although in the process of moving, he said he will travel to Fort Collins when it’s necessary and safe to do so. … Asked how much time he would need to get his team ready for fall camp, Addazio said, “Maybe because I’m an older school guy, I can remember the days when guys would go home for the summer, come back for a conditioning test the first day of training camp and you’d be off and running. As far as I’m concerned, that’s fine with me.”