BOISE — Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin doesn’t know if his team will get to practice again this spring or summer, or even if things will be back to normal to start fall camp on time in early August. But he does know one thing that won’t happen.
The spring game.
Speaking with a group of reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon, Harsin confirmed that Boise State’s annual spring game scheduled for April 11 was officially off due to the spread of COVID-19.
It seemed obvious that the Broncos wouldn’t hold a public event for fans given the social distancing guidelines in place and the fact that the football team hasn’t practiced in two weeks and doesn’t know when it will again. But Boise State had yet to officially cancel the game, and as recently as late last week, Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey wouldn’t say the game was off.
About 30 minutes after Idaho governor Brad Little announced a 21-day ‘stay at home’ order for everyone in the state, Harsin finally made the obvious official.
“No, that won’t happen,” Harsin said Wednesday. “The spring game won’t happen. And I imagine it wouldn’t happen with a large group even if we were able to get back to practicing at this point.
“We had that one open practice before everything got shut down and I could see us in fall camp doing something like that. We’ll be creative. We’ll find ways to make it up. We love to interact with the fans.”
Harsin said he had a bigger concern at this point: being able to get his players back on campus. He currently told his players to remain home an extra week following the end of this week’s spring break (Boise State is doing online classes now), but said he’s unsure when the full team will be able to convene again in Boise.
“I hope we just get back together, that’s really what it is,” Harsin said. “I wish I had better answers for you right now. If we get into some normalcy, maybe in the summer there’s some things we’ll be allowed to do, but we’ll find out as we go.”
Harsin said he’s talked with Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, the Mountain West Conference coach representative with the NCAA, frequently during this process to figure out how to proceed. Harsin suggested to Bohl that the Mountain West completely shut down recruiting during this time, and he got the other coaches to agree to a dead period through April 15. The Mountain West announced it a short time later.
The two talked on Tuesday about what the summer might look like if things return to normal across America. Boise State had three spring practices before things were suspended, while some teams had none. One possibility to make up the missed practices would be for summer practices to resemble OTAs (organized team activities) in the NFL.
“You might see something like that where you get X amount of practices or whatever the NCAA decides, and I don’t think it’s going to be in shoulder pads or pants or things like that, I imagine helmets for safety,” Harsin said. “But to get out there and get some work in and teach the game of football and do what you can under those guidelines and then hopefully get into your normal summer planning and resume in August. That would be the ideal situation for us if this is able to somewhat get under control and we can get back to some normalcy.”
Harsin said he doesn’t know of any Boise State players or staff members or their families that have been impacted by the coronavirus. Roughly 20 players elected to stay in Boise during spring break, while the rest of the team left to return home and be with their families.
As of now, the team is planning to regroup in Boise on April 5, but that could change depending on the guidelines put in place for gatherings and travel as things continue to evolve across the country and in Boise.
Harsin said he’s stressed the seriousness of the pandemic to his players and staff and told them to be smart and to follow the edicts and precautionary measures being put in place across the country.
“We need to follow it all and do it to the best of our ability,” Harsin said. “I know it’s not convenient and doesn’t fit into everybody’s situation perfectly, but this is what we’re asked to do and we can do it. If we do it properly, hopefully what everyone predicts, it will slow down and we can get back to some normalcy and most importantly, we protect everybody it might affect.
“I’m very proud of our guys and how they are handling it so far.”
Harsin and Boise State’s coaches are working from home during this time. He joked he’s added a few pounds because of how many trips he’s made past the refrigerator compared to what he typically would be doing in his office at the football facility.
He said his day is “much more busy than it is in the office” because he’s having to communicate via text, email and video conference with his coaches and players instead of seeing them in the hallway or in their offices. Coaches are focusing on recruiting during this time and evaluating prospects. They offered scholarships to about 11 players for the 2021 class Wednesday, Harsin said.
Pro Day will not go on as scheduled, but Harsin said the Broncos are looking into whether they can hold the event privately and video tape it for NFL scouts. For players that didn’t get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, like Chase Hatada, Boise State’s pro day is the only way for them to get tested and show NFL teams what they can do.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding is scheduled to hold a similar conference call with reporters on Thursday, while offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will do the same on Friday.