Of course nothing is for sure at this point as COVID-19 continues to be monitored, but Troy University athletics director Brent Jones is confident college football will be played this fall and with fans in attendance.
“We’re very hopeful and very optimistic that it will take place,” Jones said on Tuesday. “We’re putting plans in place for that to happen.
“Our season ticket sales are strong. I think our fans are excited and I think the optimism each week continues to build for football in the fall across all universities and all divisions, to be quite honest.”
The Sun Belt Conference has a COVID-19 advisory panel that is chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, the team physician for the Trojans. Dugas is also on the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards, thus Jones is kept up to date on decisions being made across the college football landscape.
“We’re able to gain a lot of insight and information on best policies, best practices and procedures that need to be put in place,” Jones said. “Every state, every city is going to have possibly different ordinances and we might not be able to open up all at the same time, but there will be sports, there will be football in the fall. How does that look? We still have almost four months to figure that out.”
The first three scheduled opponents for Troy are out-of-conference foes — a home game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 5, a road game at UMass on Sept. 12 and a home game against North Carolina State on Sept. 19.
Jones keeps in constant contact with the athletic directors of Troy’s opponents and said there has been no talk of rescheduling or pushing back games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve personally spoken to every single school out of conference that is on our schedule right now — that includes UMass, that includes Tennessee, N.C. State as well as Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and all of them are expecting to either host us, or for us to host them this fall,” Jones said. “Now there might be modifications made, but again, we don’t have to make the decisions now when you’re over 100 days out.
“What you’re doing is putting in contingency plans for state and local ordinances and what they’re going to dictate, as well as what the NCAA and Sun Belt say. So we’re still working through those plans right now, but the overall consensus is that we’ll be able to play football in the fall with fans in the stands.”
Troy football players can began voluntary workouts on campus beginning June 1. Jones said the players will go through physicals, will be tested for COVID-19 and will be educated on procedures to ensure their safety and welfare. He said the first week will be more a period of adjustment.
“We’re having Zoom (video conference) calls with them explaining the different policies and procedures that will be going on,” Jones said. “We’re also going to ensure that we’re doing best practices across the board, which include taking a baseline coronavirus test as well as following good hygiene and making sure you’re social distancing — no groups of more than 15 people at a time.
“The weight room will be cleaned after each weight group. This is a voluntary workout, so if anyone doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, they don’t have to. Also, we will have masks for our student athletes if they would like to wear them as well.”
Jones stresses the health and safety of all concerned is a priority.
“We want to have our arenas, we want to have our stadiums, full for fans and students to enjoy, but we want to be safe and keep all of our fans and students safe and healthy with the correct protocols,” Jones said. “The good news about this is, it seems like every week, or every two weeks, we’ve been able to have a new sense of optimism about being able to open this up.
“If you think about where we were two months ago, where we were just a month ago, where we were three weeks ago, it’s a different place from where we are now. So I do think with the testing as well as what we’re continuing to learn about this virus, we will have procedures and protocols being able to be put in place.
“No one in college athletics has landed on what is the best thing to do, but I think everything is on the table, because we want to ensure our fans have a great time, but we also want to ensure their safety as well.”