CU Buffs hopeful for return to field next week

BCPH order to halt gatherings for 18-to-22-year-olds set to expire Thursday

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado”s Maurice Bell, middle, runs tough after a catch during Saturday”s spring game.

If all goes well, the Colorado football team can begin training camp next week.

For now, the signs are encouraging and the Buffaloes are doing their best to stay ready for the start of camp and the regular season.

Boulder County Public Health’s order to halt all gatherings of Boulder residents between the ages of 18 to 22 for two weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus on campus, issued on Sept. 24, is set to expire on Thursday at noon.

BCPH spokesperson Chana Goussetis told BuffZone on Friday: “We are pleased to see the continued decline of new cases in Boulder over the past week; the number of new cases dropped from roughly 100 per day to about 40 per day. This is great news for our community.

“While we can’t know for sure, this decline in cases is likely an indication that the mitigation actions we’ve taken in partnership with CU Boulder and the City of Boulder are helping, including the two-week quarantine for students, increased access to testing, and the limitation on gathering size.”

Goussetis added that a decision about whether to lift or extend the order will be announced by Thursday morning.

CU, meanwhile, continues to prepare for the football season.

The Pac-12 Conference will return to competition next month, with the opening games scheduled for Nov. 6-7. According to multiple reports, the Pac-12 is planning to release its football schedule on Saturday.

Preseason camps around the conference can begin Oct. 8 or 9.

Although unable to participate in team workouts or practices, or even in small groups, in Boulder since the BCPH order, the CU football team has done its best to stay ready. According to multiple BuffZone sources, the CU strength and conditioning staff has been working individually with players because only one athlete can be in certain areas of the facilities at a time.

Sources have said that some players have four workouts scheduled per week, while others have two. The strength and conditioning staff has also given the players workouts they can do at home for the time being.

During an interview with 750 The Game, a sports radio station in Portland, Ore., on Thursday, CU athletic director Rick George did not talk about the workouts, but said, “We’re going to adhere to the local county’s protocols that they have in place and the orders that they have in place, but there’s nuances to everything. We’re going to work hard to make sure we’re ready to go when we get that opportunity.”

As long as the county order is not extended, CU should be able to start preseason camp on time, Thursday or Friday of next week. The fact that CU athletics and the rest of the Pac-12 now has daily, rapid-results testing from Quidel Corporation could help the Buffs get back on the field.

“We have had discussion with CU athletics about its testing protocols and that will certainly be considered when making decisions about next steps,” Goussetis said.

Early kickoffs

With no fans allowed in the stands for Pac-12 football games this fall, the opportunity is there for the conference to experiment with early kickoff times. George told The Game, “My hand is up,” in being willing to play a game with a kickoff time of 10 a.m. Mountain (9 a.m. Pacific).

“A 10 a.m. game here (in Boulder), I may have had some reservations this past year, but our student athletes work out early in the morning currently,” George said. “It won’t be much of a change for them.”

The Pac-12 explored the option of 9 a.m. (PDT) kickoffs in 2019, but that idea lost traction. Last week, Scott did not confirm that there would be games starting that early, but said, “There are going to be some very exciting broadcast windows for our games.”

George and Utah athletic director Mark Harlan both told The Game that they’d be in favor of hosting games that early. Being in the Mountain time zone, early games at CU’s Folsom Field or Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium would kick off at 10 a.m. locally.

“Being able to have the platform of that broadcast window at 12 p.m. Eastern time is a really positive for our conference and for those that can play it,” George said. “I wouldn’t want to do it every week, but I would consider doing it for a game.”

The Pac-12 traditionally plays a lot of late games, but George believes there is great value in early kickoffs.

“If we’re on at 12 o’clock Eastern time, we’re being talked about all day and night about that game,” George said. “We’re on ESPN GameDay, on Fox and their postgame (shows) that they do between their telecasts. We’re going to be mentioned on all of those and that’s important for our conference and it’s important for the east coast media and others to be able to see us during the day.”

George added he also thinks it is important for the Pac-12 to play on the east coast in basketball.

“I want to embrace that part of it because I do think it’s important for our reputation as a conference because it allows a lot more people to see us,” he said. “I think it’s one of those things that you just kind of embrace, try it out and if it works, then here we go.”