An Extended Fall Camp? Not if Dabo has his way

Christopher Hall

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, and it could be time for NCAA to begin constructing backup plans and implementing exceptions for the 2020 fall season.

The NCAA Division I Council has already taken a large step in allowing 2020 spring sport student-athletes to participate in an additional year of eligibility after they saw their seasons canceled abruptly due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Now, the council should start looking at all possible options for the fall sports season, which appears to be danger of being postponed or also canceled altogether. 

Sure, we all want to see things return to normal as quickly as possible and for college football to be played as scheduled this season. But the old adage "hope for the best, prepare for the worst" might be applicable this season for programs across the country. 

In his teleconference on Friday morning, Swinney remained optimistic about the season kicking off as planned and that is staff is operating as such. 

However, as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to climb, many fans across the country are beginning to feel a bit nervous about what is it come in regards to Saturdays this fall.  

Teams missed out on crucial spring sessions due to the outbreak and while programs across the country are trying to make the most of the situation and stay on track, there's nothing quite like that hands-on, face-to-face meetings between coaches and players. 

For a non-sport parallel, imagine being part of a band, orchestra or choir. Sure we can all learn our individual parts and responsibilities but you simply can't replace having all participating bodies in one place to work through it together.  

"The Band that Shakes the Southland" can fire up "Tiger Rag" at any given moment. However, the on-field formations and work that goes into the halftime performances are much like what other fall sports go through in the sense it takes time, and more importantly, time spent together. 

As it stands today, the NCAA has only canceled all spring 2020 activities as student-athletes transition to strictly online courses and video calls to communicate with their professors and coaches. At what point do we begin looking ahead to the future and how to go about this missed time?

 While some athletes will have access to weights and can stay in decent shape for the time being, there's still going to missed time of practice, team workouts and basic installation. It simply won't be very feasible for teams to be fully ready and physically in shape to compete if, for example, it is late June or early July before the NCAA gives clearance for Organized Team Activities.

Dabo discussed during his nearly hour-long teleconference what he felt about fall camp being extended to allow for extra preseason prep and help get programs back into a normal routine. 

"Definitely don’t want to see camp extended. I don’t think that’s the way to go. Camp is tough, man. You don’t want to extend that," Swinney said. "But from an equitable standpoint, I don’t think it’s fair we got to go out and have nine practices and some teams have none. So there needs to be equity there." 

The NCAA and ACC recently agreed to allow coaches four hours per week to hold virtual team meetings in addition to the regular staff meetings to help keep operations afloat. 

While Swinney is against an extended fall camp, he realizes exceptions must be made this year on how the remainder of the offseason is handled by the NCAA. He hinted at the clearance of additional OTA's to help make up some of the instructional period missed in the spring. 

"I don’t know what the number is," Swinney said. "But there needs to be some leeway this year due to these circumstances and next year we can get back on a normal schedule. There should be some relief to allow everyone to have some OTA’s, if you will. No pads, helmets only. Do drill work, install your offense and defense, do some 7-on-7. And just teach. Do what you would do. Evaluate your team a little bit, condition them, and get them ready for camp."