When head BSU football Coach, Joe Verria, found out back in early July that his team would not have a season this upcoming fall, he was concerned about how the school and his players would respond. After talking to coach on Zoom today, it was clear he could not be prouder of his guys.
After having his team activities for the spring cancelled, the the staff rushed to wrap up a solid 2019 season and coach soon realized his plans for the fall were in jeopardy. When the MASCAC, (Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference,) and the board of presidents decided to at least postpone the fall season, summer plans changed drastically.
Over the warm months, the team held regular zoom calls for updates on what was to be expected this fall. Early in the conferences, Coach Verria found great positive energy from his players and noticed their urgency to get back on the field.
The team has been following university protocol as players and coaching staff are getting tested and some players deciding to opt out of the season altogether. Heading into the fall, the Bears had around 90 players, some not returning to campus following their choice to learn remotely at home.
For the players on campus, the team was able to start team lifts in two separate groups. The university has moved over weights from Kelly Gym to the Tinsley Center and the team goes to lift inside and outside with two separate groups of around 25 kids. A week after lifts began, the team was able to hold team practice with no pads outside on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. Maintaining six feet outside with masks, Coach Verria punishes his players with push-ups if they break social distance rules.
Players are anxious to get outside to work on speed and agility drills after being cooped up in their dorms all day for online classes. When they finally arrive to practice masked up and ready to go, they want to put in a max effort.
The team does consist of some commuters and off-campus players which coach reports to be very happy with in regards of how the team is treating isolation and following the teams COVID rules.
Recruiting has been affected by COVID in the way that players who want to visit BSU must first inform the campus prior to their arrival to keep record for contact tracing and will have to tour the school with masks and maintain a six-foot distance with staff. To minimize unnecessary travel by hosting recruits on campus, the coaching staff has been dedicated to meeting players from all over the country via Zoom and welcoming any questions or concerns the players have related to their COVID-19 protocol.
For the roughly 35 new transfers or incoming freshman, this season feels like a expanded training camp as they arrived on campus in September instead of August. The time off has allowed for transfers and freshman to understand the playbook and get into football shape.
The loss of games in the fall has opened a discussion of possible extended play in the spring with around two to four inner conference games. Even if this were to happen in the coming months, students would not lose a year of eligibility as it is such a limited season. The team will find out by Thanksgiving break what the plan for the spring will be and hopefully soon progress to phase 3, which allows more flexibility for team activities and bonding.
Coach Verria emphasized how important team activities are and the bonding of new teammates is being lost and he truly cannot wait to put names to faces and see the relationships between his players build over time.
It was a pleasure speaking to Coach Verria, I look forward to following up in the Spring by hopefully attending a game. Huge respect for the players and staff staying strong through these uncertain times, it’s all for the sport they love. Keep up the hard work…Go Bears!