STARKVILLE • With basketball’s March Madness and the remainder of the college baseball season canceled, many fans are eagerly anticipating football season in the fall and a return to some semblance of normalcy.
Mississippi State’s John Cohen is talking with other athletic directors around the Southeastern Conference and officials from the league office multiple times a week in an effort to map out a plan to insure that football season takes place in the safest way possible.
“There are some really smart people at the conference and national level that are looking at this,” Cohen said this week. “It’s really important to know that this is a safety-first situation and we don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy. That’s our main area of importance.
“We all want to have football, we all want to start on time and we want people in the stands.”
A myriad of scenarios are being explored including pushing the start date back, playing an abbreviated schedule and possibly limiting the number of fans in attendance.
“Not much escapes (SEC commissioner) Greg Sankey,” Cohen said. “The brilliance of Greg Sankey is keeping every option on the table in terms of fans in the stands, scheduling itself and in terms of starting times. I feel really good that as we get more information moving forward that time will allow us to make a much more predicable outcome.”
Whenever football is finally given the all-clear to proceed, coaches will obviously need time to get their teams acclimated and prepared to play before the season can begin.
“We’re at the point where we have to ask what is the essential amount of time for the health and safety for the student-athletes,” Cohen said.
Competition was suspended in March by the SEC a week prior to Mississippi State starting spring football practices under first-year head coach Mike Leach. The Bulldogs were set to install new offensive and defensive schemes over the course of those 15 practices.
“That’s when you really bond with the kids and develop a rapport,” Cohen said. “The kids get excited about the new offense or the new defense and very little of that has happened. Now we made great strides in our strength and conditioning program that was leading up to spring practice ...
“I feel bad for our kids and our staff but we’re not alone. Very few SEC football programs were deep into spring football practices when this happened.”
Cohen said he and other conference and NCAA officials will continue to converse over the coming weeks and months to find the best possible resolution.
“The bottom line is that it’s not going to be perfect,” Cohen said. “We’re going to have to make some really tough decisions – but at the heart of those decisions, we always have to consider the safety and well being of our student-athletes, staff and the fans.”