Houston planning to play full 2020 football slate, bring back players June 1
Athletic director Chris Pezman provided a couple of updates on Thursday evening about the target dates and goals to bring student-athletes back on campus as the summer approaches during the third and final meeting of the Coaches Caravan.
UH athletics has been shut down since mid-March as closures due to the coronavirus pandemic forced stay-at-home orders and cancelations of sporting events nationwide, but with Wednesday’s decision by the NCCA Division I Council to allow voluntary workouts to resume on June 1, Houston now has a first-glance look at what is realistic in the near future.
“Summer school starts on June 1,” Pezman said. “We are planning to get the kids back as close to that date as possible … When we bring our student-athletes back, we want to make sure everyone knows we are providing as safe an environment as possible.”
The biggest sport that is on the horizon for Houston is, of course, football, and while there is still no specific plan on how exactly games will be able to be played yet, there is a growing sense of optimism around the program.
“We’re planning on (playing all 12 regular season football games),” Pezman said. “All indications are that we are going to get all the games in. We are still planning on starting on time and looking forward to getting our kids back on campus pretty soon.”
The athletic director also said on Thursday evening that the University has been communicating through conference calls daily with medical professionals about how games in the fall could look like.
Pezman’s comments mirror that of President Renu Khator, who on Thursday during the Board of Regents meeting said the plan is to have face-to-face classes available in the fall.
As all decisions about when to let student-athletes return to campus and access training facilities continue to be a fluent situation, one thing was made clear during the Zoom meetings — UH athletics will not re-open with all engines running at full steam.
“Right now if we are able to work out our kids this summer, (there will be) social distancing and masks involved,” men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “The ratio of coaches and players (will be) cut down, for instance in the weight room, there may be only three or four players with (strength coach Alan Bishop). On the court … we might only be able to have three (players at a time) and (the workouts will be) one on one.”
Head football coach Dana Holgorsen’s plan is similar to Sampson’s when it comes to the workload of student-athletes during June.
Holgorsen said the first month back will not be about “football talk” and that the focus will be on the players’ nutrition and conditioning instead if they are allowed back into the facilities in June.
“It’s essential for these guys to get in shape,” Holgorsen said. “July is going to be pretty essential when it comes to starting some football stuff in order for us to play football in September.
“We’re going to have to let our guys touch each other and get after each other a little bit in July and August in order for that to be able to happen in September, and I remain optimistic.”
While much is still yet to be determined, University officials have already been in contact with Rice and Washington State, Houston’s first two opponents in the 2020 football season.
“We’re keeping those lines of communications open,” Pezman said. “Obviously things change, but we want to play the game. We’re looking forward to getting these kids on the field and letting them play, but obviously you got to do it responsibly.”
During a time where athletic events have been non-existent for the past couple of months, there have been glimpses of hope in getting competitions back up and running.
The Bundesliga in Germany kicked off multiple soccer games last weekend. NASCAR held its first race in months on Sunday, and the NBA seems like it will attempt to continue its season in the coming weeks.
For now, UH has some optimism and a vision as it gets closer to the summer.
“Sports brings communities together,” Pezman said. “This is what we look forward to doing in the fall. We’ve opened communication with Rice, with who we open (the season) with, and we’re going to try to make that first game a celebration of Houston and everybody that helped get us to that point from care workers and people in the front lines of this, but also everybody that supports us day-in and day-out.”