2020 has been a year of challenges for all of us. From the pandemic to social injustice to natural disasters, you name it and it has happened this season.
College football programs across the country have been no different. We’re down to 76 of the 130 FBS programs who are currently slated to play football this fall, Liberty being one of those.
“I can’t think of another season that I’ve been a part of that was more mentally challenging,” Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze said. “I’ve been through some different scenarios where you have some tragedy that hits your team that will definitely test you mentally, but those are typically in a span of 24-48-72 hours and then you kind of get back in the groove. This has been over the span of what, since March?”
Every week has brought its own unique challenges to the game of college football. It started in early to mid March when sports began to be cancelled across the country. It stretched to college football spring practice and Liberty saw 10 of its 15 scheduled practices scrapped.
As the calendar moved into the summer and towards the fall, teams and conferences began dropping, but several remained. Liberty lost four games, added two, and now sits just hours away from the commencement of a revamped 2020 season.
“The taxing and challenging that’s faced all of us in college football, particularly those of us who are trying to get to game week with a full roster, has been unlike any other,” Freeze continued. I think our kids have handled it as well as possible.”
The challenges remain. Games continue to be cancelled across the country each and every week. Locally, we’ve seen Virginia and Virginia Tech’s game postponed.
“If my phone rings this week Ian, I will be anxious before I answer it not knowing what could happen, but it’s a reality we all have to face that the health and safety of our teams is the priority,” said Freeze. “We’re trying to do everything in our power to make sure that we remain that way, but reality is in the times we live that it could affect us. It could affect us, it could affect a team that we’re playing. That’s totally out of our control.”
Liberty’s players and coaches must go through three COVID-19 tests this week to be able to get on the plane headed for Kentucky on Friday. Travel arrangements are much more challenging than in typical seasons. SJ Tuohy, Liberty Assistant AD – Director of Operations for the football program, has the unenviable task of placing the players on the plane in a way that best limits the contract tracing should someone test positive.
Parents fortunate enough to make the trip to Bowling Green have been asked to not be around the players, another unfortunate byproduct of the pandemic. Just a few more days and, hopefully, there will be an actual football game occurring.
“We’re very excited,” Liberty running back Joshua Mack said. “Everything with this COVID situation going on, from not really having spring ball, to not being sure if we’re going to play this year, to actually seeing these past two weeks other teams going out and compete. Then, for it to be us this week, I think we’re just excited. We’re exhausted hitting each other and ready to go hit someone else.”