CU Buffs doing best to be ready for fall sports — if they happen

The Pac-12 has a schedule set for practice and competition start dates for fall sports.

Whether the coronavirus pandemic allows the fall season to actually play out remains to be seen, but Colorado athletic director Rick George said the Buffaloes are doing their best to be ready.

“I think we’ve taken some great strides,” George said Tuesday during a webinar hosted by CU about college sports in 2020. “We’ve really learned a lot about testing. We’re now into surveillance testing and how often we test our student-athletes. Our student-athletes have been working out in our facility since June 17 and things are going really well there. We’re learning as we go, but I think we feel confident that we’ve got great protocols in place for our student-athletes.

“We feel like we’ve got a great plan if we’re allowed to have fans in our stadium this fall. We’re going to be prepared to go, if we’re allowed to go.”

If they’re allowed to go.

George, chancellor Phil DiStefano and football coach Karl Dorrell all took part in the webinar and all three applauded CU’s health and safety protocols in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. They each also sat socially distanced and with plexiglass between them and moderator Mark Johnson.

The Buffs are preparing with workouts ongoing – but only in small groups – health and safety protocols in place and a modified, 10-game football schedule set. They’re also not in full control of having a season.

George pointed out that the athletics department is working with campus officials, as well as authorities from Boulder County and the state.

“We’ve been working closely with all of those entities and I think we have to be collaborative in this process,” he said.

In an effort to have a fall season, CU is emphasizing the importance of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. Anybody that comes into the facilities gets a symptom check, George said, and surveillance tests are being done with athletes.

From a football standpoint, Dorrell said he’s pleased with how the players have handled the situation and he believes it’s helping bring the team together.

Dorrell recalled the initial athletic department meeting in March with George and student-athletes. At that time, George told them CU was looking into sending them home — a step that occurred quickly in mid-March.

“A couple of my players … (said), ‘Can we leave now?’” Dorrell said. “We went from a very anxiety-ridden timeframe at the early onset of it to now they’re educated about the process. They’ve done such a great job of understanding our social distancing policies and understanding this bubble that we’re working with, how their actions outside of this building really affect the circumstances of our football team. They understand that they have to be very protective when they’re not in this building, taking care of each other.”

CU administrators and coaches have been in contact with athletes throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, but George said he’s seeing more athletes in person lately as they come to the Champions Center to pick up their training table meals.

“That’s the thing I miss the most,” he said of interacting with the athletes. “That’s the thing that I come to work for every day is our student-athletes and to support them, so being able to see them, knowing that they really want to compete, it gives us a lot of motivation to make sure that we provide the right things that allow them to have a chance to compete.”

DiStefano said it will be up to the trends in COVID-19 cases and public health guidelines to determine if there’s a season and how it will look.

“Rick has done a tremendous job with his staff in making sure the student-athletes in all sports are healthy and being safe,” DiStefano said.

If there are games this fall, George said a final determination has not been made about fan attendance. George added that CU will follow county and state guidelines in regard to fan attendance.

CU has worked with Populous, which designed the Champions Center and stadium expansion, to formulate a social-distancing plan for attendance and George said, “I’ve reviewed what that looks like. I’m not going to say how many people we would allow into the stadium at this point because we’re still focused on that but we’ve got a really good plan in place.”

For now having good plans in place is about the best CU can do.

“We’re putting ourselves in a position where when we’re allowed to move forward, we’re ready to go,” George said.