LINCOLN — College football’s on-ramp to a pandemic-altered season was put in place Wednesday by the NCAA Division I Council, which voted to approve a preseason calendar that allows the sport to start a full training camp Aug. 7 and its season on time in the first week of September.
Voluntary, unsupervised workouts — occurring at most college football programs — will continue until July 12. Beginning July 13, coaches can start requiring players to work out and do film study for up to eight hours a week through July 23.
The July 24 through Aug. 6 period is set up like a minicamp, with coaches getting 20 hours per week with student-athletes. Eight hours can be used for strength and conditioning, eight can be used for film review and team meetings and six hours can be used for walkthroughs with a football. The normal training camp — which begins with unpadded practices and progresses to pads in the first week — can start Aug. 7.
The NCAA Football Oversight committee recommended adopting the proposed calendar last week.
“Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, we believe this model provides institutions and their student-athletes flexibility to prepare for the upcoming season,” said West Virginia Athletic Director Shane Lyons, the committee chair.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost — who had the majority of his team in voluntary workouts by the first week in June — said he thought the NCAA held a little too tightly to previously created timelines that helped create the calendar. Nevertheless, he said Tuesday he was in favor of its approval and sees the minicamp period as a way of getting back a bit of the instruction lost when Nebraska had to cancel spring camp after completing two of the 15 allotted practices.
Other Big Ten schools, such as Purdue and Northwestern, got more workouts while some, such as Iowa, didn’t get any.
“Missing the amount of spring practice that we did just sets you back as far as knowing X’s and O’s and being able to operate as a team,” Frost said. “Having a little extra time before camp starts with walkthroughs and getting some of that done, will definitely, I think, benefit everybody that missed spring ball.”
It will change Nebraska’s approach, though.
In a typical year, players would go through rigorous summer conditioning in late May and June, take a break in July to recover, then return in late July/early August to start training camp. Once the calendar kicks into gear July 13, there won’t be any breaks, and because of coronavirus protocols, it may not be easy before then to send players home en masse because of the preventative contact tracing.
Just to get athletes back in June, Nebraska had to figure out a series of contact and quarantine procedures that some programs are still trying to navigate. Oklahoma, for example, has chosen not to return to campus until July.
But Frost might be in favor of the minicamp model every year if it works well next month.
“If we can get some work done during that time as far as the X’s and O’s go, we are actually going to be able to be a little easier on them in camp,” Frost said. “With everybody missing some spring ball, that’s some valuable time.”
While schools are subject to local laws, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is reopening the state in ways that accommodate the calendar. Starting July 1, the restriction on contact sports will be lifted and the Shrine Bowl is expected to be played July 11 in Kearney. Several Nebraska walk-ons had been scheduled to play before the July 13 start of mandatory workouts.