After an offseason that sent the NCAA off the rails, every team is looking to get back to a normal program.
For Illinois State University football, the team hopes the transition will be easy. Head coach Brock Spack thinks his team was built to withstand the unforeseen offseason.
The early March shut down of spring sports halted a successful start to the offseason for the Redbirds. ISU finished its winter workouts and was waiting to build on their strong start with spring workouts starting March 15
“It’s been really different. We were having a great offseason until we hit the COVID shut down. Our team had really good winter conditioning,” Spack said. “I have been really proud of our players. Our kids are working hard, trying to make the best of a bad situation. What I’m hearing is that our players are in good shape and doing well.”
Without a spring practice, the Redbirds had to run through their offseason program remotely over Zoom. With no physical reps, ISU was able to slow down the learning process.
“The good news with that is we were able to slow it down from a classroom standpoint,” Spack said. “We took our time and really hit the details of each position and of the system. Obviously missing spring practice and missing the reps is what you really miss about spring. What I hear is that we will have six weeks of preseason instead of four. [Organized team activity]-style practices for a couple of weeks.”
The lack of spring practice will change how the rest of the offseason will play out. ISU will have to gradually work its way back without the physical spring.
ISU athletic director Larry Lyons predicts a mid-June return to campus for student athletes. Once the Redbirds get back to team workouts summer training camp will be extended. Normally a four-week program will be extended to a six-week training camp. Padded practices will start in the final two weeks.
“We are working through plans right now. How we manage with strength and training,” Lyons said. “Once we get a plan, we have to run it by a couple of groups. We would have to open facilities that are technically closed.”
Even though the Redbirds and the NCAA are planning to return to team facilities for practices in the very near future, a regular-season return is still not set in stone.
Lyons expects a formal announcement soon about the return. Despite this he notes the situation is still fluid.
With social distancing guidelines still in place, the Redbirds and the rest of the NCAA have an up-in-the-air situation about fans in attendance. Lyons remains optimistic, thinking at least some fans will be in Hancock Stadium.
“If football is back, I am hopeful we have fans in the stands,” Lyons said. “We have 90 days to figure that out. Things change so rapidly. We have some options in our back pocket when we can see where we are at and how the virus is affecting Illinois.”