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TU football: Montgomery confident there will still be a college football season

TU football: Montgomery confident there will still be a college football season

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Tulsa at ECU

The start of the football season may be delayed or shortened, “but I think the season is gonna happen,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said Tuesday. GREG THOMPSON/Tulsa World

First, it was basketball season cut short because of COVID-19 concerns — from the NBA season to the NCAA Tournament. All college sports and, eventually, the Olympics were canceled or postponed next, and nearly three weeks into this pandemic, the sports world fears college football could be the next to be put on hold in 2020.

University of Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery met with media via video teleconference Tuesday for the first time since the Golden Hurricane’s spring game and the rest of its spring practices were canceled March 23. Despite rising concerns about the possibility of no football this fall, Montgomery is still confident there will be a college season this year, even if it’s a later kickoff than TU’s scheduled first game against Toledo on Sept. 5.

“I’m not tremendously worried about that,” Montgomery said. “I really believe that some point near this thing’s gonna start to flatten out, we’re gonna get some answers, we’re gonna get it under control a little bit more. Now, whether we get to start on time or not, I think that’s pretty well up for grabs. But I think the season is gonna happen. It may be a shortened version of it, there may be some different things going into it, but I think by that point in time we’re gonna get the season in at some point.”

TU Director of Athletics Derrick Gragg also spoke to media via video teleconference last week — two days after spring football was canceled for the Hurricane.

“I think there’s a lot of discussion around that,” Gragg said then. “Because, again, you want to get back to safety, wellness. Do you play the games? Do you play the games without fans? How are the fans going to respond if this thing does lift? Are they going to be afraid to come out in crowded situations like football games are?

“So all those types of things are being talked about. I think the main thing with the finances is that I think you can fulfill a contract with ESPN, or whoever you’re with, depending on what conference you’re in, if you play the games and they’re televised, even if you don’t have the fans, Now, obviously, you want to have the full experience, because, you know, football is made up of that, historically, with the fans and all that, but I think worst-case scenario that people will be looking at — and we’re starting with that — is what if we continue to play the games and have no fans, like we were determined to do with basketball?”

The NCAA Tournament and several conference basketball tournaments were originally planned to continue without fans in attendance when the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged in the United States. The American Athletic Conference did not tip off any games before the tournament was ultimately canceled, though. Like college basketball, playing college football games in empty stadiums will most likely be the first step before actually cancelling games if the situation does not improve.

“It would be strange,” Montgomery said about playing in an empty stadium. “It probably feels more like a practice or scrimmage. But I think, as you play, your natural competitiveness of the guys that we get to coach and be a part of this with, those guys understand when it’s game time, lights are gonna come on whether you’re playing in a full stadium, an empty stadium, a stadium full of your fans only, a stadium full of their fans only. When it comes game time, you gotta flip the switch and you gotta go, and the competitive nature, I think of that, would kick in and guys are gonna be flying around just like always.”

Fall camp traditionally starts the first week of August for college football teams, with the season kicking off about a month later. However, this year, that timeline may have to change considering players will need more time to get into playing shape and most teams did not get to complete spring practices.

With that in mind, Montgomery does not believe there’s a stern target date to decide if the season continues or not based on the situation at that specific time.

“I think it’s such a fluid situation,” Montgomery said. “I think you just got to keep rolling with it, and then continue to keep having plans, making plans, and then being able to adjust those as things change because they are changing so rapidly.”

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Dekota Gregory

918-581-8355

dekota.gregory@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @dekotagregory

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