Though news was moving fast this past weekend and into Monday with the Mideastern Athletic Conference closing shop and reports the Big Ten and Pac-12 might follow, plus the players’ coalition being formed by players across the Power 5 Conferences, it felt like March 12 all over again.
March 12 is the day when all major sports teams, leagues and organizations shut down in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sports world was asleep for more than two months.
However, for head coach Dabo Swinney, this past weekend does not feel like it did in March 12.
“This does not feel that way to me, just because we, and again we are unique, because we literally left on March 12th for spring break and we never saw each other again,” Swinney said.
On March 11, Clemson had just finished a scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. It was the Tigers’ last practice prior to spring break and the ninth overall in the spring. Swinney excused his players for spring break and was expecting to see them again in a week.
The next day, Clemson hosted its annual Pro Day for its former players, but before the event concluded just shortly after lunch, conference basketball tournaments from all over the country were canceled. Later that afternoon, the NCAA announced all competition for the winter and spring sports were canceled, while the individual conferences eventually came out and shutdown all competition and activities indefinitely.
College athletes did not return to their respected campuses until June 1, nearly two and a half months after the shutdown.
“This is very different because we are practicing, we are here, we are in meetings, we are in camp. We are together all day, every day. So, it is very different,” Swinney said. “We are aware of what is going on out there, but we are trying to stay focused on what we control, but also fight for what we believe in.”
Clemson is still pushing forward as it prepares for its Sept. 12 opener at Wake Forest. The Tigers have already completed four days of fall camp and until they are told otherwise, they will continue to prepare under the protocols and guidelines the school and the ACC has set for them.
“Again, nobody has to be here. There is not one person that has to be here, and our entire roster is here. Our entire staff is here,” Swinney said. “People forget, this is what we love to do, and we are doing it in the safest possible way that you can.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our players are safer here with this environment, with this nutrition, with this food, with this supervised training, with this medical care, with our rehab and all the resources that are available to them than they are all over the country, where they are not being tested every single week. They are not being tested. Their environment is not like it is here.”
Swinney said everything at Clemson’s Allen Reeves Football Complex is mitigated from fans, to the building and to how they practice.
“Yes, guys can still get it. I can get it. I can’t do anything to keep me from getting it,” he said. “I have two sons on the team, but we all have to make our own risk assessments in life. It has always been that way and, again, if you say just cancel all of this and everybody is perfectly safe, I would be the first one saying lets go.
“But that is not the case and we all know that, and it is not going to be any different in the spring. So, at some point we have to find a way, and everybody has to make their own decision on what you want to do. I made my decision and I have a football team that has made their decision. Hopefully, people will respect what we want to do and will allow us to play.”
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