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'Go until they tell us to stop': BYU football continues season prep despite uncertainty

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Posted - Aug. 11, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.



PROVO — The Mountain West joined the Mid-American Conference as the two FBS leagues that have decided to postpone the fall season, including football.

By the end of the day, the Pac-12 and other conferences could join them — or they may not, depending on which report you read.

All around the BYU football program, the college football season appears to be unraveling — while the Cougars are one of the only teams to continue to practice.

So what did they do Monday while the Mountain West postponed its fall season, the Power Five met, and the NCAA considered its options? What did they do as BYU’s schedule was reduced to three games, and athletic director Tom Holmoe was no doubt working the phones to find someone — anyone — the team could play this fall?

They went to work. They practiced.

"Whatever the decision is, that’s not my choice. We’ll follow it," BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. "But right now, we’ve got to go as if we’re ready to play the game."

Nothing's been formally decided across the NCAA, because the NCAA doesn't have the authority to formally decide anything at the FBS level.

That authority comes from the conferences, and then individual member schools. For example, Nebraska has floated the idea of playing an independent schedule if the Big Ten opts the cancel the fall season — while longtime independent Notre Dame has joined the ACC and its decision-makers.

It’s not that the Cougars aren’t worried about the season, or that they disagree with their Power Five counterparts in the #WeAreUnited or #WeWantToPlay movements that are sweeping the nation.

Quite the contrary, says quarterback Zach Wilson; the Cougars also want to play. But there’s also little they can do when Big Ten presidents meet Tuesday morning and Pac-12 CEOs follow suit later in the day.

There are things, however, that BYU players can do to be ready for a season — whenever that season occurs.

The university self-reported 85 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 from the campus community through Aug. 7, a group that includes students, staff and faculty — including those on campus for training camp. So the virus has reached Provo — like it has the rest of the country — and there are things the players can focus on to keep an environment able to play a 2020 season.

"You’ve got to understand that COVID-19 is a real thing. But it’s just about keeping your distance," Wilson said. "Every single player at BYU wants to play this year. And if you want to play, you’ve got to keep your distance from people … not go out or go to a party and bring sickness home.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson leads the team into practice, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020 in Provo. (Photo: Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

"If we want to play football, we’ve got to not go out of the house for a while." BYU staff members have introduced face coverings for players and coaches from the moment fall camp opened. Everyone is screened for symptoms, temperatures are checked, and even a seemingly mild sickness is sent home.

There is also increased sanitization at the practice facility, and outside groups — including media who cover the team — aren’t allowed in the facility. Helmets are being fitted with a new splash shield from Schutt Sports that helps limit the spray of potentially virus-infected air droplets on the field, as well.

The Cougars are doing everything they can to continue the season. Like so many other players, they don't want to cancel the year or kick the can down the road any further.

"Not part of one of these conferences but feel the same exact way," BYU tight end Kyle Griffitts said on Twitter, along with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay.

So there are things that can be done to promote an environment of health and safety. Those are the things the Cougars can control.

The rest? That will have to wait.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I was taught not to worry about things you can’t control and only worry about what you can control," offensive lineman Brady Christensen said. "We can voice our opinions, but in the end, we can’t control what happens this season. So we’re only focused on Navy.

"All we can do is work and work and work, and prepare. That’s our mentality with all the players right now."

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