Friday was a wild ride, endlessly checking my phone and twitter to see if an announcement was made. As the day progressed, the announcement was made, the Mid American Conference is returning to play November 4th with a conference only, six-game season.
First and foremost thank you to the NIU Athletic Department for the invite to the press conference, and second, and most importantly, Sean Frazier is a powerful leader and a top notch athletic director.
Sean started the press conference with “In typical MAC fashion we were the First conference to postpone and the last conference to opt-in.” It was clear today now more then ever that it was always about protecting students, athletes and staff members. When asked about if there was a pressure to return to play, Sean simply met that with, “from who?” It was clear and evident that throughout this process Sean Frazier, Lisa Freeman, and the NIU Athletic Department valued the safety of their players and our community over dollar signs.
I was able to ask Sean about the opportunity for fans to return to Huskie Stadium this season. Sean stated that “in order for that to happen they would need approval from local governments as well as medical professionals.”
It was determined later in the evening that the MAC conference will not allow tailgating or fans in attendance for games this season. In addition, if the unthinkable should happen and there is an outbreak, protocols are in place for game cancellations to keep the six game schedule, even if that means the games are rescheduled.
Again, this is all hypothetical, and if teams can combat this virus week in and week out they will have the privilege to hit the field on Saturdays. The decision to delay the return of MAC football came down to the conference’s ability to understand the science behind the virus and the ability to safeguard it, according to Frazier.
In addition to Sean Frazier being available, NIU Head Football Coach Thomas Hammock fielded questions from the media as well. I was able to ask him how he benefited from having the senior leadership on the roster that he does in a year like this. Coach Hammock responded with, “Veteran leadership can help you, but I also believe that young players can bring the type of excitement that you need as a shot in the arm.”
Coach Hammock feels good about the progression he saw from his team in summer workouts. Coach Hammock made sure that the team was able to “Control what they can control… we spent a lot of time making sure our academics were in order, a lot of time teaching the game of football, spent a lot of time going back to the basics so that these guys could have an opportunity to keep it fresh.”
The MAC returns to play on November 4th for a six-game, conference-only schedule. Each team will be administering four COVID-19 tests per week to their players, which will begin on October 5th. Football will be the only sport returning in the fall for the MAC conference, and at this point the conference has the shortest schedule of any Division 1 conference.
Regardless if its one game or six games, we at Huskies On Tap are just excited that the return is here, and we cannot wait to be there to cover it for you. With everything going on surrounding this season, I cannot promise you we will be at the games to cover them just yet, but being included in this press conference was a step in the right direction for the brand. Stay tuned for our next two interviews on the podcast! Here is a clip from the press conference that I mashed together from the handful of questions I asked.