• By Philip Green

Football looks different this fall

COVID-19 has impacted the lives of everyone on campus, from virtual learning, to wearing masks, to quarantine and isolation. For the student-athletes on campus, the worldwide pandemic has not only changed their education but also their respective sports. Due to the pandemic, all fall competitions have been cancelled, but teams have been trying their best to make the most of what they’ve been given. Every sport has been impacted by the virus and teams are trying to navigate how to keep players safe while maintaining the competitive edge.

The football team has been hit especially hard by the virus and pushed the start of fall practices back several times due to players and staff being in isolation due to close contacts and positive testing. Head football coach Mike Aldrich outlined what football will look like this year.

“We have moved our spring practice schedule to the fall, 15 practices, and moved our fall practice schedule to the spring, 103 days, with the opportunity to compete against outside competition. We had originally planned to begin in early September, and ever since we have been on a pause of athletic activity. Once the pause is lifted, we will resume our plans for 15 practices this fall,” Aldrich said.

Minot State football eagerly awaits the opportunity to start up this fall, especially after the momentum the team built up over the past year.

“We created so much momentum from the end of last season, the winter off-season, our virtual spring meetings, and up to 70 players here during the summer. I do not want to lose that momentum and the challenging situations due to COVID has created definite obstacles. But we have to see obstacles as opportunities. And the only way to keep our momentum going is through competitive situations,” Aldrich said.

As much as players and coaches want to get back on the gridiron, MSU football and athletics understand how important the safety of the student-athletes is.

“We are the most aggressive athletic department in our conference in terms of our health protocols. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) needs each team to test weekly once they actually engage in outside competition against teams from other campuses, and since our conference has cancelled all outside competition until after Jan. 1, schools and universities only have to test as they see fit. For example, only testing those individuals with symptoms or not testing at all. However, we are now requiring weekly testing to participate in athletics. This is allowing us to track and respond to the spread of the virus and continue to increase our mitigation efforts to control the spread,” Aldrich explained.

Aldrich and his staff believe that Minot State’s approach towards safety this fall will put them ahead of the game come spring.

“We also feel this will put us in a much better situation for spring football in regard to our mitigation efforts and response to the spread of the virus. Other universities will be just beginning their weekly testing protocols in the spring, whereas we have had it implemented for the entire school year,” Aldrich said.

This year will serve as a redshirt year for all fall athletes, but that hasn’t completely left out the chance to potentially compete against other universities in the spring.

“Since we moved our competitive season to the spring, we will have the opportunity for outside competition if the right situations present themselves. Some of the situations against other teams that we have been discussing include full games, controlled scrimmages, controlled jamborees, and conjoined practices,” Aldrich explained.

For the moment football is on hold to keep the players and coaches safe, but when it returns, the team and their coaches will be looking to build off their recent momentum.

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