New CDC policy will make it difficult for Nevada spring camp to proceed

Toa Taua
Toa Taua and the Wolf Pack could be forced to the sidelines for spring camp. (Byrne Photo/Nevada atheltics)

When we talked to Nevada football coach Jay Norvell on Thursday, he said Wolf Pack football spring practice was expected to start as planned on March 24.

By Friday afternoon, the spring camp opener was pushed past April 1 at the earliest.

Given the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it might happen at all.

The CDC advised Sunday against the gathering of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency warned against large events, including "conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings and other types of assemblies." Spring football is obviously a sport, although not in a traditional sense as it is just practice. The recommendation did not apply to the daily operation of schools, institutes of higher learning or businesses. Perhaps there's some wiggle room in there to hold spring camp.

"This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus," the CDC said in its statement. "This recommendation is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials."

The Mountain West has canceled all spring sports but allowed individual schools to make determinations on whether to hold spring football. UNR has canceled in-person classes after spring break as it shifts to online learning.

Perhaps Nevada could hold practices in smaller groups to avoid exceeding having 50 players on the field or in the locker room/meeting areas at once. There might be a way to hold spring football and adhere to the CDC policy, but it wouldn't be easy.

Norvell said Thursday he wanted to hold spring camp, which allows teams up to 15 practices each.

"We just have to continually, cautiously move forward and make sure we’re being smart with our athletes and making sure their overall health and well-being is the most important thing," Norvell said. "We want to continue to practice. It’s what we do. It’s our job as coaches to prepare this team for our season. It’s an important step. We’ll have 15 practices. We get three practices in helmets and we get another 12 in pads. We’ll be smart. We’re set up to get about 100 snaps a practice."

The NCAA could perhaps allow teams to hold spring camp in the summer, although that wouldn't be easy, either. The CDC's eight-week pushback against gatherings of 50 or more people will expire May 11, at which time the spring semester at Nevada will be ending.

Among MW schools, San Diego State and Air Force have already finished spring camp. New Mexico and San Jose State are in the middle of spring practice and were pushing forward as of late last week. Utah State stopped practicing while UNLV, Hawaii and Nevada have yet to begin spring practice. Boise State, Fresno State and Wyoming made statements about COVID-19 but did not provide more information on the status of their ongoing spring camps.

One of the reasons Nevada would like to get through spring camp is because it is installing a new defensive scheme with new coordinator Brian Ward. Not being able to practice would potentially put the Wolf Pack behind the curve of its competition.

"We’re going to put in a new defense," Norvell said. "We’re tweaking some things on offense. So it’s an important time to really teach those schemes with our players.”

Truncated spring camps at other MW schools would probably hurt other programs in the conference more than Nevada because six of the other 11 MW schools, including four in the West Division, made coaching changes in the offseason and are installing new schemes on both sides of the ball. Seven of Nevada's 11 FBS opponents in 2020 also are breaking in first-year coaches.

The NCAA also has outlawed in-person recruiting, both on and off campus.

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