By Tris Wykes
HANOVER – There will be football on Memorial Field this fall.
So said Dartmouth College head coach Buddy Teevens this week while discussing the Covid-19 pandemic and its affects on his defending Ivy League championship squad.
“We’ll essentially be having spring practice in the fall,” Teevens said by phone from Florida, where he’s spent the last five months. He noted that such plans rely on Big Green players testing negative for the virus. “It’s going to be a huge benefit for the incoming freshmen and we want our guys to use it like a redshirt season.”
Teevens is always looking for ways to implement his mantra of “Adjust and Improvise”. He’s found daily ways to do so while living in his family’s second home in St. Augustine, Florida, south of Jacksonville. He undertakes an ocean swim in the morning, a bike ride at lunch and some fishing in the evenings, but the vast majority of his time is spent running his program via Zoom meetings, phone calls and texts.
“It sounds like I’m on vacation, but I only wish,” Teevens said. “We’re in a totally different world as far as coaching.”
With high school prospects spending fewer hours on their campuses, Teevens said the NCAA loosened rules regarding contact from college coaches. The altered regulations allow much more access via video, calls and text messages and the Big Green has taken full advantage. The Ivy League canceled all fall sports in July.
“We’ve done more than 700 Zoom-type calls with recruits since this whole thing started,” Teevens said. “We usually have four unofficial spring-visit weekends and then summer camps, but we’ve never have the volume of kids accessing Dartmouth like we do now.”
Spencer Brown, Dartmouth’s head strength and conditioning coach, is accustomed to overseeing athletes on study-abroad programs, so the only real difference this summer has been having the entire program off campus. Teevens said he’s seen video of players performing chin-ups on tree branches, bench-pressing a bar constructed with a 2×4 and bags of rocks and executing route fakes on palm trees.
Tight end “Zion Carter was doing blocking techniques against couch cushions his dad was throwing at him,” the coach said with a chuckle.”
The college will welcome back much of its freshman and junior classes in mid-September. Big Green receiver Drew Estrada, a fifth-year senior, said he and others were added to the list when not all residence slots were filled.
“If playing a season in the spring became likely, I could drop my classes and change my academic term to the spring,” said Estrada, a sociology m
ajor who needs two credits to graduate. “It’s making things difficult for decision making.”
Teevens concurred, noting that Ivy League fall sports programs are in limbo, waiting to see if they’ll play in the spring.
“I honestly don’t see (a spring season) happening logistically with the needs of field space and coverage by the (athletic department) support staff,” he said. “The (Ivy League) presidents haven’t ruled it out, but that seems difficult.
“It would be helpful if the league decides there is or not to be a spring season. Make a decision, because no decision isn’t helpful.”
The Big Green will try its best to be ready in the meantime. Teevens has emphasized to his players that they must conform to the college’s testing and quarantine protocols to give themselves the best chance to resume practice.
“Be very guarded and don’t expose yourself to situations that lead to others coming down with the virus,” Teevens said. “We owe it to the facility and retirees and residents in Hanover to take care of our business properly.”
If Covid cases are low at Dartmouth after a couple of weeks, the coach thinks it’s possible his team could be practicing by the start of October.
“We’d have groups of 10 players and one coach, no more,” Teevens said. “There would be different zones of occupation on the field and you shouldn’t cross into anyone else’s zone. Maybe a quarterback throws to a wider receiver who throws to a relay guy who sanitizes the ball and throws it back to the quarterback.”
“Spring” practice in the fall could be truly beneficial for younger players. But if that occurs and isn’t followed by a spring season, what do the seniors do? Many might opt to graduate and start working careers or transfer in order to start graduate school, perhaps while playing a year for their new university. That’s Estrada’s likely route.
“My motivation’s still there because I still feel like I have football ahead of me,” the Argyle, Texas, resident said. “I’m treating it like any other offseason and waiting to see how this all unfolds. I’m not in any rush to make a decision.”
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