BOISE, Idaho — The Boise State football team is kicking off the 2021 season the same way they wrapped up their COVID-19-ridden 2020 campaign.
Inside a bubble, with limited contact to anyone not deemed necessary to the day-to-day operations of the program, according to head coach Andy Avalos.
“We decided for the best interest of the student-athlete experience, with some of the things going on with COVID right now, we've had to shut everything down in terms of visitors," Avalos explained on Sunday . "[We're] keeping it all to Tier 1 [people] being in and around the players.”
The preventative measures came as a bit of a surprise last Tuesday. On the eve of which Fall Camp was sent to kickoff, Boise State announced they were restricting the access of all guests.
Media members wouldn’t be allowed to attend practice, alumni of the program couldn’t visit the football facility, and a function with donors was canceled, all with little advanced noticed.
The university then slightly altered protocols on Day 5 of Fall Camp, allowing reporters to go to practice on The Blue on Sunday, however, those in attendance had to observe the session from the stands at Albertsons Stadium.
“Coming out of 2020, we wish were all out of this phase with this pandemic,” Avalos said. “We didn't want to start off like this with having to close practice and all that stuff. We're actually really excited. It's good for the players for people to be out there, and especially the media. The accountability that that holds and how they've got to get ready for practice, starting fast and all that stuff, it's actually a benefit.”
“We don't plan to keep it that way,” Avalos added. “And as soon as we can switch it back, we will. We promise that.”
Until then, the bubble that Boise State has created is limited to about 160 people. That includes team trainers, the strength staff and video personnel, in addition to the coaching staff and the players.
While Fall Camp is always a pivotal time for college football teams, there is a greater sense of urgency for the Broncos to make the most of their time together right now. The new coaching staff that was assembled less than eight months ago still needs time to implement what they want to achieve, which includes operating an entirely new offensive playbook.
“We've just got to work through a few things and stay on the path that we're going now in the best interest of the student-athletes so that we can continue to grow and be out on that field having fun and preparing for the season,” Avalos said. “We needed to tighten up so that we could ensure we got going in Fall Camp. We don't hope to stay on this path for a long time, but for right now, it's the most important thing.”
In two weeks, that path will become much more unpredictable. That’s when students are scheduled to return to campus as a new school year begins, which means student-athletes will also go back to the classroom and interact with the general population.
“If the hardest thing that we have to do right now is mask up, whether you're vaccinated or not," Avalos said, "at least we get to be in the building, and the players said that's what we want."
A cross-country flight to open the season at UCF also looms on Sept. 2.
“They've been awesome about it, to be honest with you,” Avalos said about his player’s response to the current protocols. “It was a lot harder the first time around in the winter and the spring, trying to create that within the environment and get used to it. I love them for that. I love them for that. They're going it because they want to be here every day.”
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