Head Coach Greg Gattuso Oversees A Practice in 2019. Credit: UAlbany Sports
By Edwards Kemedjio | February 17
The University at Albany Great Danes’ football program has kicked off training camp for their upcoming spring season that some doubted would ever happen because of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a school-wide shutdown last March and ever since the UAlbany sports programs, including football, have had to deal with many postponements and cancellations. Football had its fall season postponed but now they are preparing for that same season, which will be half as long and with only interconference games.
Despite college football being played throughout the country, albeit with many bumps in the road, it wasn’t until September that the football team’s conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, announced a six-game shortened schedule that would take place in the spring.
Prior to the beginning of training camp, many UAlbany football players participated in voluntary Zoom workouts during the past few months. On Wednesday, February 3, Head Coach Greg Gattuso held a Zoom meeting with over 90 of his players, kicking off the 2021 campaign. Camp will begin with two weeks of strength and conditioning.
“Yeah, I’m eager to do it,” said Gattuso. “We still have limitations, but we’re just excited about getting our guys back and starting to train and see what we have and go out and play the best we can this season.”
The team put on their actual pads for the first time in over a year during their first Saturday practice on Feb. 13. The last time the team practiced with pads it was in preparation for their second-round matchup against Montana State in the FCS Playoffs.
Players expressed their excitement to be back on the field. The Great Danes did hold several practices during the fall, but a spike in COVID-19 cases forced the university to shut down all athletic activities.
COVID-19 will be the biggest obstacle as the season approaches. As of right now, the team will not play in front of fans, which is not something these players are accustomed to. Gattuso also mentioned that all team walkthroughs will have to be socially distanced.
The size of the current roster could prove to be an issue in the future. NCAA football allows rosters to have up to 105 players before the first game of the season, with no limit during the season. The UAlbany team hovered around 90 when the team reported, making roster depth a serious concern.
Rosters can get up to 125 players, but most programs have over 100 players at all times. Because of the size of the UAlbany roster, positive tests would likely lead to postponements and cancellations during the season due to contact tracing.
Contact tracing postponements are possibly the largest danger to the season. Games during the fall season throughout the country were cancelled without a positive test on the team but because of contact tracing from positive cases outside the team.
On a college campus where the students reside and interact with other students on a regular basis, even with the restrictions on campus the team could face cancellations in the event of a campus outbreak.
“We’re figuring it out as we go,” said Gattuso. “Normally, we’re very involved and with them during camp. It’s a bonding period. It’s a team chemistry period. We’re losing a lot of that stuff.” Many of the rituals that the team usually performs aren’t possible as well, including team meals and private meetings.
The Great Danes will kick off their season March 6th at the University of New Hampshire. The team must win the conference if they want to secure a spot in the FCS playoffs.