With the coronavirus pandemic causing sports cancellations on campuses across the country, Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin will have to delay preparations for the 2020 season for the foreseeable future.
The first-year coach said he has been working since spring break to adjust plans with limited access to his new players and no return to campus in sight.
Kiffin said his coaching staff and trainers have communicated with players concerning social distancing practices and training suggestions as a substitute for spring football practices since all on-campus facilities are closed.
“Maybe I’m naive, but I’m still hoping for some type of spring ball to happen at some point — just some type of practices,” Kiffin said. “We can send (players) workouts. They’re not required to do them. I don’t think they report back. Even if they were in Oxford, we’re not allowed to work them out.”
The Ole Miss training staff has implemented a system contacting each player since the university shut down on-campus classes. According to Kiffin, the staff can send suggested workouts, but they are not permitted to send specific coaching instructions at this time.
“I think that kids are all over the place,” Kiffin said. “Part of the problem is they’re coming off of spring break, so it’s kind of hard to monitor.”
The team will use alternative ways to install the new system of communication, but the possibility of the pandemic’s impact continuing into the summer makes it likely that teams won’t be able to conduct on-field practice for a long time, which will put a wrench in the transition process for Kiffin.
“It’s a million things. It’s your system. It’s getting to know your players,” Kiffin said. “One of the big things in coaching I think is understanding your players and how to coach them. Until you get on the field with them, you don’t really understand that. There’s no way to figure that out in a classroom. You lose them getting to know each other, too. “
The fallout from the coronavirus will also put a delay on day-to-day operations for spring recruiting as well as the transfer market, which were set to be important factors for the Ole Miss staff building a 2021 recruiting class.
The NCAA has instituted a recruiting dead period through at least April 15 that restricts in-person recruiting trips for assistants, official visits and on-campus prospect camps. Coaches may only contact recruits by phone.
Though the start of the regular season is set for September 5, the uncertainty of the longevity of this pandemic puts into question whether the 2020 season will start as scheduled or, in the worst case scenario, if the season will be played at all.
Kiffin said he has yet to hear plans on if the team were to miss time in the summer or fall.
“I think everyone’s pretty careful about trying to figure things out down the road,” he said. “I’m no expert in this, but it seems like no one really knows if this is coming to an end or if it’s going to be weeks or months. The president said weeks today but who knows… I feel like we’re a long ways away from getting to the point where we’re even around the kids. Hopefully I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen that quickly.”