Saturdays in Athens
George Somerville. Saturday 13th June 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
A slightly different column this time around as earlier this week I dialled into a press conference with South Carolina’s Will Muschamp.
This was the first time that the South Carolina Head Coach had addressed the media since the Gamecock’s facility re-opened post the Covid-19 shutdown. Here are Coach Muschamp’s thoughts on the current situation.
Coach Muschamp started his press conference by addressing the current unrest sweeping across the US as a result of the murder of George Floyd.
“I share the anger and frustration that we’ve witnessed across the country. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of George Floyd and others who have shared a similar fate. The police brutality and conduct that occurred in Minneapolis, what has happened in other places in our country, including right here in South Carolina, is unacceptable and needs to stop. Enough is enough, and it’s sad that in 2020 we’re having these conversations.
“Actions are louder than words. I can put out a paragraph on social media and that does nothing compared to what we did Friday as a football team. But the actions are what we need. We can’t be silent about racial inequality at this time. Dr. King once said ‘hate begets hate and violence begets violence,’ and that’s still true today. That’s not the answer for what we need to do as we continue to move forward.”
Back To Practice
The NCAA announced late May that College football teams would be allowed back on campus to practice from 1 June subject to restrictions. The Gamecocks returned to their practice facility this week, however under strict conditions set by the NCAA. Coach Muschamp explained the current situation.
“Right now with our football team, all of June is just for our strength and conditioning staff and the only time that we can meet with our players is on virtual and zoom calls.
There is not a July calendar yet set by the NCAA of when we will be able to meet with our players, so I don’t know when that is going to happen. Obviously we are working with a couple of different models and preparing for those things but I do not know when that is going to happen.”
With social distancing still key to preventing the spread of the disease, Muschamp described the team’s new daily routines.
“Our team right now has four lift groups, one at eight in the morning, one at nine-thirty, one at one and one at two-thirty. We are entering the building in clusters of four to five guys and they are having their temperature taken and we are checking for symptoms.
They are walking from one end of the building – where they normally enter on one side – straight to the weight room where they get their run and their workout in and then they are leaving the building on the other side.
After each group leaves we sanitise the entire building. We are not showering in the building and they have two sets of clothes to work out in. We sanitise everything for the next day and they have another set (of clothing) for the next day.”
On Friday, the Team joined Head Coach Will Muschamp in what was described as a “positive, peaceful protest” from the Governor’s mansion to the State House in Columbus. When asked abut his and the team’s participation in the march, Coach Muschamp said,
“I felt it was important for our football team to make a statement. And I told our team that Carol and I were going to be there Friday and they were more than welcome to walk there too if they wanted to. Other than some guys who had graduation, that were not able to come to the march, our entire team took part”.
Leading the march was quarterback, Jay Urich who carried a sign which read “Matter is the minimum. Black lives are worthy. Black lives are beloved. Black lives are needed”.
Muschamp had this to say about Urich’s show of leadership
“The fortunate thing here at South Carolina is that we’ve got a lot of guys like Jay (Urich) that care about each other, that see the injustices that are going on in this country and want to stand up for each other. You know when you want to stand up for your teammate, it’s a brotherhood. I am proud of Jay but I am also proud of our entire team”
Muschamp shared his thoughts on the way forward
“we are going to continue to educate and communicate to our team and I have speakers scheduled throughout June. My father told me it is easier to do what is right. That means a lot to me. It says a lot about a time when you are in a lot of adversity, when you are in a time of strife to be able to do what is right. That is important to me”.
“I’d love to one day see our world as a locker room. It doesn’t mean we all love each other, that’s not true, doesn’t mean we all like each other, but we have respect for each other and we have respect for the common purpose we’re all coming together for.
back to work
With the players returning to the facility after a period of inactivity where they had been left to their own exercise regime, their state of fitness was always going to be a concern to the Coaching staff. While making the point that this was the first day that the players had been allowed back on campus, Muschamp was honest in his assessment of what he expects to find out in the coming weeks.
“This is the first day back for them lifting. and running so I will know more after today when I talk to Coach Jackson and his staff about how things went. But I would say that there is a percentage that probably did more than they were supposed to. There is probably a pretty good percentage that did exactly what they were supposed to do. Probably a percentage that didn’t do quite enough. And probably a small percentage that didn’t do anything. So, we will find out more after today about the condition of the team.”
in the dark
Currently the NCAA has only provided guidance for practice during June and the initial return to practice facilities. Muschamp confirmed that no guidance has been published for July and beyond which keeps the coaching staff in the dark in terms of how practice is going to develop. Muschamp had this to say about how difficult it is to plan ahead.
“You are planning for everything and there are different models out there that the football oversight committee is going through right now. (SEC) Commissioner Sankey and William King have done a great job of keeping the coaches involved in those conversations. Every Thursday we have a meeting and we talk through the different models that they are looking at.
We have plan A, B, C, D and E on the table for me to plan for when we are able to engage with our players on a one on one, or positional or a team setting again When we are able to do that we will have a good plan set in place.”.
playing by the rules
Much has been made of Tennessee’s early march on recruitment which has propelled them to the #2 position in College Football recruitment tables. Muschamp was asked about the difficulty in recruiting during the current circumstances.
“You know there was an interesting stat last week that there were over 750 players committed to Division I schools. This time last year there were 300.
So a lot of those commitments out there are what I call reservations. And that’s just the facts of where we are. Because there are a lot of schools saying “hey you might not have a spot, why don’t you take a spot right now” and that’s happening.
I had a conversation with a young man and his parents last night. And they had two different coaches tell them that “you better commit now or you’re not going to have a spot”. That’s unfortunate. We’re not doing it that way.
We didn’t have the kind of year we wanted last year and that has slowed us down a little bit on where we would want to be right now. But signing date isn’t until December and the second signing date is in February. So, there’s a lot of time to be made up in these situations”.
With thanks to Coach Muschamp for his time and to the South Carolina Gamecocks Communications Team for providing access.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.