The sooner the NCAA determines if and when there will be FCS playoffs this school year, the sooner the University of Richmond’s players and staff can set a course for what’s next.
The Spiders already endured roughly four months of uncertainty about whether they would have a fall season, so a cloudy future isn’t anything new.
UR, William & Mary, Hampton, Norfolk State and several other FCS schools resolved that they aren’t playing in 2020 because of the pandemic. They are exploring the possibility of participating in some sort of spring season. Other FCS programs, James Madison and VMI among them, continue to prepare for a fall season that may, or may not, be played.
A half-dozen FCS conferences have scrapped fall football.
If there are FCS playoffs in 2020 (they have not been canceled), then a spring season might seem superfluous. It’s possible that the NCAA could shift the 2020 FCS playoffs to the spring. In that case, a 2020 fall season might seem superfluous.
“We’re just kind of in a holding pattern right now,” Richmond coach Russ Huesman said. “We’ve just got to make the best of it and see where we move from here, whether it’s spring or next fall, and hopefully get waivers for our guys if it is next fall.”
The NCAA provided waivers for spring-sports seniors who missed most of their 2020 seasons, granting them eligibility for another year. Many chose to return. Many chose to move on in their lives. Huesman said the indications he’s gotten from his seniors are they would like to return in 2021 if there is no spring season with a national championship on the line.
UR football players are expected back on campus for the Aug. 24 start of the fall semester, no earlier. By then, Huesman hopes there will be an NCAA clarification regarding whether there will be FCS fall playoffs, FCS spring playoffs, or no FCS playoffs this school year.
The UR program’s plans then will be formulated.
“As of right now, we’re just trying to keep our guys mentally into things and keep them excited about what’s going to happen down the road,” said Huesman. “Coaches are still meeting (virtually) with players. I think our guys are still working hard. Again, until the NCAA gives us some input into what we’ll be allowed to do when they get back here … ”
If this year’s seniors are permitted through NCAA waivers to return for the fall of 2021, that would probably decrease the number of incoming freshmen the Spiders could sign in the Class of 2021.
“Right now, we’re continuing to recruit, and recruit hard, but how many we take in this class … whether we play in the fall (of 2021) and not the spring, that will be a big determining factor on how many we take,” said Huesman.
CAA Football announced on July 17 that it wouldn’t be playing this fall, and Huesman said, “It felt like somebody punched you in the gut when you got the news.”
Compounding the coach’s disappointment is the fact that some FCS programs continue ramping up for the fall season.
“Whether they have one or not, who knows? But they’re preparing for a season, so they’re out there with their guys,” said Huesman. “When I see tweets of FCS schools out there and coaches out there with masks on and players moving around, it kind of hits you in that point in time that we can’t do that.
“I miss our players. I would love to see them every day. That’s the tough part right now, not having the ability to do that.”