Miami football coach Chuck Martin on Covid-19 concerns: ‘The confusion in college athletics mirrors the confusion in the country'

Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard Miami head coach Chuck Martin talks to the media during the 2017 Spring Showcase at Miami University’s Dauch Indoor Sports Center in Oxford Saturday, Apr. 22, 2017.

caption arrowCaption
Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard Miami head coach Chuck Martin talks to the media during the 2017 Spring Showcase at Miami University’s Dauch Indoor Sports Center in Oxford Saturday, Apr. 22, 2017.

RedHawks 2020 season was canceled on Saturday

So, what does a football coach – or, for that matter, a coach in any sport – do when there is no season?

Miami football coach Chuck Martin faced that question Monday morning, two days after the Mid-American Conference became the first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to postpone the 2020 fall sports seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’ll be like any other offseason,” said Martin, who was on the verge of his seventh season as the RedHawks’ football coach. “Obviously, we’re waiting to see how it plays out. At this point, you hear all the rumors. It’s like there’s something new every day.”

Presidents of MAC members voted unanimously on Saturday morning for postponement. Affected sports are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

Martin and Miami had more reasons than most MAC programs to look forward to the 2020 season. Sixteen starters, led by sophomore quarterback and MAC football Freshman of the Year Brett Gabbert, returned from the team that won the 2019 East Division and conference championships.

The 2019 RedHawks spent their conference season on the edge. Four of their six regular-season conference wins were by margins of seven or fewer points before their 26-21 win over Central Michigan in the MAC Championship Game.

ExploreMiami AD on MAC cancellation: 'My heart hearts for the kids'

Martin described his players as “shocked and depressed” about the news.

“They love what they do and want to play,” he said. “A few of the kids had COVID concerns and were contemplating whether to play or not, but 99 percent of the kids wanted to play. Then you have your kids who are seniors or who have already graduated or were going to graduate in December. They had pretty good plans, and now they have to throw them out the window.

“The confusion in college athletics mirrors the confusion in the country. Everybody wants to play. College football could be safe, but nobody can tell us how safe. It’s frustrating for the kids for sure. They want to play when it’s safe, but I’m no infectious disease expert, so we don’t know when it’s safe.

“It’s like I told the kids. It’s hard on everyone in the country, not just the ones playing football.”

Roster management is one of the many issues created by the move. Will seniors be granted another year of eligibility? If so, what do teams do with incoming freshmen? How many seniors will stay? Martin’s pragmatic approach is it does no good to worry about problems for which there are not yet solutions.

“I’m worrying about the kids and helping them through these times,” he added.

ExploreCollege football season in peril after tumultuous weekend

Miami was scheduled to start fall practice on Monday, upgrading from contact-free workouts and weight sessions to the indoor practice facility to the north of Yager Stadium.

“We had not started practice with so much uncertainty going on,” said Martin, 30-45 overall in six seasons as the RedHawks coach. “We were still doing the noncontact stuff that we were allowed to do. We had planned on starting camp today. With school starting in a week, we had kids here training and doing walk-thrus as they transition to school.

“What we’ve done all summer is try to be as safe as possible. Before we brought the kids back, we moved the weight room to the indoor facility. The air circulates in and out, so there’s plenty of fresh air and tons of space, so the kids aren’t on top of each other.”

One of the rumors going around has football and other fall sports possibly competing in the spring. That would create busy campuses, especially if spring sports are allowed to resume after seeing their 2020 seasons cut short.

“We could have spring in the fall and fall in the spring,” Martin said.

About the Author