Oct 26, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell reacts with tight end Charlie Kolar (88) after Kolar caught a touchdown pass during the second quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
In typical “Football Guy” fashion, the idea of not playing a football season has not even crossed Matt Campbell‘s mind.
While Iowa State’s head coach has been leading his still emerging program through the always-changing world of the coronavirus pandemic, Campbell has banked on the idea of playing a football season during the 2020-21 school year.
When that will be and how it will all take shape remains to be seen, but the idea of not playing football this year? Nope, Campbell is not letting that one seep into his mindset even despite how we’ve all seen the way things can change at a moment’s notice over the last month.
“I’ll be honest with you, that thought hasn’t even crossed my mind. Could it happen? Boy, I think anything can happen, as we’ve seen here over the last couple weeks,” Campbell, who is entering his sixth season as the Cyclones’ head coach, said during a teleconference on Tuesday. “My thoughts have been more about a plan of when and if and then taking care of a lot of people and a lot of players within our organization day in and day out. That’s kind of where I spend most of my time.”
This came only a few days after Campbell’s athletic director, Jamie Pollard, told the media that college athletics would be entering an “Ice Age scenario” if the football season is not played.
But, just being able to manage the program is a tall task when you consider it is an organization made up of more than 100 people with a majority of those people being 18-to-23-year old young men.
That task gets even taller when you consider the fact those young men are spread across the country, living in different time zones and with different realities than they usually face while living the life of a Power 5 college football player.
At a time when the Cyclones would usually be in the midst of spring practice, they are all practicing social distancing, studying up on their academics and football from afar and taking part in position/team meetings over FaceTime, Zoom or any other number of virtual tools.
Despite losing those 15 opportunities for on-field growth during the spring, Campbell does feel like the Cyclones were able to take steps forward during the spring semester under the tutelage of new strength and condition coach Dave Andrews.
“I put as much stock, probably an equal amount of stock, I always have, into winter workouts as I do spring practice,” Campbell said. “I thought it was great for our program to have a little change, a little newness in terms of Coach Andrews coming. I thought the job that he and his staff did was exceptional in terms of what I saw in that eight-week block leading up into spring break from accountability, discipline and detail and then physical growth. I think we were all really, really excited about what we saw.”
While not having spring practice is obviously not ideal for any college football program, it can hopefully be less detrimental for an Iowa State team expected to return north of 15 starters from its 2019 squad. It will be an experienced group, outside of a few key positions, made up largely of guys who do not need to have their hands held at every moment.
This fact puts the program in a position where even though it can’t continue building up their route trees or stiffening their third-down defense, the Cyclones can continue to work on the little things that have made Iowa State football successful over the past three years.
Accountability, discipline and details.
“Quite honestly, it would have been a different spring anyways for us in a lot of ways just because the needs of this year’s team are drastically different than other teams so I think that’s something that at least is a positive,” Campbell said. “Those are areas we still can grow on along with in terms of learning the offense, learning the defense and just the ability to sharpen some of the detail that we talked about a lot from last football season. Those learning opportunities still exist for us. Those are things we’ve just continued to work on.”