Morgantown, W.VA. – As COVID-19 continues to be a dominate presence across the country and in the sports world, Morgantown, West Virginia is in its first few days of shelter-in-place and West Virginia students will not be back on campus for the remainder of the semester. The West Virginia football program had their spring practices taken away and players are now spread across the country doing their part to stay home and flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread.
Thursday morning, head coach Neal Brown addressed the media from his home office, actively showing that he is doing his part and staying home. Brown’s conference was essentially an opportunity to touch base, address the potential impacts this will or could have on the football program and to provide a brief update as to where the team is and how the coaching staff is handling this new, uncharted territory.
Brown started by pointing out his top priority at the moment is the health and safety of his players and coaching staff. The precautions put into place stopped the team’s spring football just two practices into the spring, then the university had spring break and now classes have been converted to all online for the remainder of the semester. Add that all together and you have a football coach who very quickly has to rely on the internet and technology to get in touch, and stay in touch, with all of his players and staff.
Coach Brown started off by giving a brief run down of how he’s keeping in touch from home. The head coach is in daily contact with his coaching staff and checks in daily with players via Zoom and FaceTime. The team has had two virtual team meetings and position groups have met a few times virtually.
Coach Brown went on to talk about strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph, who has one of the more challenging jobs during this new normal. Coach Joseph has the job of monitoring the workouts players are doing from home, or from their apartments in Morgantown, all over Zoom, phone and FaceTime. Brown highlighted that Joseph has three sets of workouts laid out depending on what the player’s situation is: a workout for players with full access to a gym, one with limited gym access and obviously a home workout routine with no gym access.
Coach Brown has a reputation for being very rational, always with a plan and often very realistic (remember his post-game conferences from a few losses last season) and his approach to this current situation is not different. Brown pointed out that after his last media address, the Thursday of Big 12 tournament week if you can remember back that far, he felt it was likely his last press conference and likely one of the last times he would see players in person for a while. The head coach wasn’t wrong.
Brown spoke about relaying the severity of the spread of COVID-19 to his players, highlighting that his team consists of mostly 17-23 year olds and it’s been discussed that this age group across the country has been slow to understand just how serious this is. (The college student in Florida claiming “If I get Corona, I get Corona” surely comes to mind for everyone.) The head coach said his team now has a much more clear understanding of the severity of the pandemic we’re all facing.
Coach Brown went out to discuss that March 29 is a pre-set date that typically marks the start of when the coaches can reintroduce football conversation with the team, and right now he’s unsure of if that will happen or now. The always organized coach, who loves to have a plan (if not multiple plans) said his staff is ready to go should they be allowed and able to have their normal eight-hour football work days come Monday. Brown went on to talk about how they will continue to use the same tools that have been in place the over the last few weeks to work through film, plays and as much virtual football as possible.
Finally, Coach Brown took a second to show what we all know; Brown is a man of character. Brown made it a point to thank the media and made sure to say to support local news, local restaurants and local businesses during these trying times.