Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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22 JUNE/JULY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I f a college football season does oc- cur this fall, it likely still will not serve as a sign of returning to nor- malcy in this year of COVID-19. It would be anything but normal when it comes to logistics and after- shock tremors, especially if a second wave of the pandemic happens. For Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick, this goes far beyond dealing with anything unexpected or having con- tingency options. "There will be great disparities that will be inevitable in this," Swarbrick stated during a May 5 Zoom session with the media. "The NCAA will do what it can, I think, to regulate. But you're still going to have circum- stances where schools aren't open, and others are. Or states haven't reopened, and some have. The bigger challenge for us is the consequence that will have on competing in the fall. "I'm not concerned about a com- petitive advantage or disadvantage. I accepted long ago in this pandemic that's a natural consequence. I have told our coaches over and over again do not focus on that issue. Focus on health — your health, the staff's health … most importantly our stu- dents. We'll go from there." There are several different layers to deal with, from different state regula- tions, varying school openings, for- mulating a schedule, etc., that create myriad complexities. All it takes is one member of the team to contract the virus that can gum the works and result in a new quarantine. "What's the [team] record conse- quence if someone deciding they can't play — or having a week where they can't play because of an out- break?" Swarbrick asked. Then there are the logistics still in- volved even if there is a go-ahead to start convening and engaging in workouts hopefully by July. With more than 100 players on a team — never mind support staff, coaches, student managers and train- ers — and gatherings of more than 50 people discouraged, if not prohib- ited, this creates numerous questions. "Do we need to do something differ- ent with our locker room?" Swarbrick continued. "Do we need to create ad- ditional space — taking the locker room we have now and maybe using our game-day locker room in the sta- dium for some students, and the one in our football building for others?" The same applies to the weight room. How many people can be al- lowed in at a certain time? A plan also needs to be put in at such a sweaty environment for constant cleaning, including the equipment. "Social distancing" has become perhaps the most popular new phrase in 2020 — yet football prac- tices involve inevitable contact among players, in addition to how coaches instruct them. It is all part of adjusting to another "new normal." "Do we approach practice differently in terms of the interaction during the course of practice?" Swarbrick said. As for game-day operation, the checklist to address is enormous. That likewise begins with what is best for the student-athletes and the overall student population. The player walk from the football offices to the stadium has become a popular tradition with thousands of people scrunched together to dem- onstrate their support to the team on that walk. "Can we do that in these circum- stances?" Swarbrick asked again. Much was made last year of Notre Dame ending a streak of stadium sellouts that dated back to 1974, but this year that topic is more irrelevant than ever. Instead of the listed capac- ity of 77,622, maybe about half that number might be more appropriate. And that's only part of the game-day operations that have to be evaluated. "What will the entries into the sta- dium look like?" Swarbrick continued. "How will we change concessions? … How do we also manage the lines?" What occurs outside the stadium is another layer to ponder. "Tailgating creates a much more challenging dynamic to control — to establish some regulations around having the safest environment you can," Swarbrick said. Everything begins with the student body, on the field and in the stands. "If our football team can play, our other students should be able to be in the stadium to watch them play," Swarbrick concluded. "First and foremost we'll focus on their safety." It is an "off season" of thought not experienced since World War II. ✦ The New Normal Potential 2020 football season could be unlike any other ever seen If football is able to be played this fall, everything — from locker rooms to practice to the pregame player walk — will need to be re-examined. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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