HUNTINGTON — As COVID-19 cases have started to spike again across the nation following the reopening of business, the 2020 college football season has again been put into limbo.
On Wednesday, however, Marshall University Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said the Thundering Herd’s football schedule has not changed, which means the team’s transition from voluntary workouts to its mandatory summer access period begins on Monday.
“We’re continuing to prepare for college football,” Hamrick said. “Until someone tells me that we can’t go along those lines, we’re moving forward with the calendar. We will continue to do what we’ve been doing. We have policies and procedures and we’re continuing to follow those.”
Prior to voluntary workouts, policies and procedures included an isolation period and COVID-19 testing upon arrival in town, which had to be cleared before student-athletes were permitted to take part in workouts.
Those same stipulations are in place, meaning those who did not return for voluntary workouts are currently going through their isolation and testing period in an effort to be cleared prior to Monday’s workouts, which transition the NCAA calendar.
Under the amended 2020 NCAA football calendar, summer access is permissible 25 days prior to the team’s first scheduled football practice, which takes place 29 days before the first scheduled contest of the season.
With Marshall being one of few teams in the country to play in what is known as “Week Zero” on Aug. 29, that period starts with the first segment of summer access on July 6, which is Monday.
During that first segment, mandatory summer access allows for just eight hours of weight training, conditioning and film review — the latter of which cannot exceed two hours per week.
While that film review session includes just two hours, it is an aspect that Hamrick and his administration are keeping a keen eye on.
Normally, film review takes place in meeting rooms, which bring several players into a close room for breakdown of clips of their own practices or opponents.
However, some of the rooms used were not adequate for social distancing, so options are being discussed as to handle film review.
“If we have those, those will be masked and socially-distanced,” Hamrick said. “Our safety and health people on campus have come in and have worked with us on preparing meeting rooms for social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting. But we’re still trying to figure out if we’re going to continue to meet virtually or if we’re going to have our kids in the same room.
“If we do have them in the same room, we’re going to follow all the policies and procedures that we must follow.”
For Marshall, the first leg of summer access runs until July 17 (14 days prior to first allowable practice date) when the second phase of summer access begins.
In the second leg, the mandatory weekly hour allotment raises to 20 hours per week and can incorporate walk-throughs with use of a football as well.
Teams are limited to four hours per day during the second phase with eight hours allowable for weight training and conditioning, six hours or less allowed for walk-throughs with a football and six hours or less allowed for meetings.
Marshall is one of just 12 schools nationwide for which the NCAA calendar falls to where they start Monday. The rest of FBS starts on Sept. 5, which means the first leg of their summer access period does not begin until July 13 and the second leg starts on July 24 prior to an Aug. 7 start date for practice.
The summer access period is beginning at a time where COVID-19 cases around the nation are increasing at an alarming rate following the reopening of business in a phased manner within the United States.
The recent surge in cases prompted several lower-tier programs to cancel their 2020 football seasons in recent days, citing risks and costs associated with combating the virus during competition time.
While the numbers are currently moving in the wrong direction, Hamrick said the Football Oversight Committee — of which he is a member — did not discuss any changes to the season or its calendar in its weekly meeting.
Hamrick added that he has had no current discussions with East Carolina Athletic Director Jon Gilbert about moving the game back from Aug. 29 to its original date of Sept. 5.
That means, for now, Marshall is less than two months away from opening its 2020 regular season.