Less than one week ago, Maryland football coach Michael Locksley addressed local reporters on Zoom with excitement about the start of fall practice. The Terps opened camp Friday, Aug. 7, in preparation for a revamped conference-only season that was slated to start at Iowa Sept. 5.
Then it all came crashing down. After days of reports and rumors that the Big Ten would cancel its fall football season, the conference officially announced the postponement Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Locksley spoke to reporters again Thursday, Aug. 13, for a much more somber video press conference.
“My heart breaks for our players,” he said. “They worked really hard over the last couple of months here, and through no fault of their own, football’s been taken away from them.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, college football players across the country were still preparing for a fall season, even with the knowledge that plans could change at any time. Some players were rehabbing serious injuries and eager to return to the field. Some had worked themselves into the best shape of their lives. Some were hoping a strong senior season could earn them a shot at the next level.
But now there will be no Maryland football in 2020. The Big Ten still hopes to hold a spring season, but that concept produces more questions than answers right now.
Maryland held helmet-and-pads practices Aug. 7 and 8 and had a scheduled day off Aug. 9. But with multiple reports Aug. 10 that the conference was expected to postpone the season, Locksley paused the Terps’ practice and meeting schedule, keeping the players in their “semi-bubble” at The Hotel across Route 1 from campus. Fall coaches learned of the cancellation the afternoon of Aug. 11, then informed their student-athletes before the Big Ten made its official announcement.
“We adjusted in terms of not going out and continuing to practice,” Locksley said. “I didn’t feel it was in our best interest as a program to put our players in harm’s way without knowing the direction that we were going to go as a conference, and we made that decision to not practice and to not do any more football meetings until we had a definitive answer from the Big Ten.”
For now, players are still allowed to work out at team facilities provided they adhere to COVID-19 protocols and continue to undergo regular testing. Locksley said the team will “virtually game plan” for the schedule it would have had this fall while staying in shape for a potential spring season. While Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has proposed a spring season starting Feb. 27, Locksley knows the answer on when Maryland will take the field next won’t come for a while.
Plenty of questions will hover over these coming weeks and months. How would a spring season even work? How different would the rosters look? If the season disappears entirely, will players — or at least seniors — receive additional eligibility? And how would that affect future recruiting?
Locksley knows these issues are largely out of his control. So he’ll keep plugging along in whatever ways he can. Maryland is still actively recruiting the 2021 class — the Terps’ 19-man class currently ranks 18th in the country — and Locksley, who started his “Late Night With Locks” video series this spring, will continue to promote the Maryland brand. He’s still a football coach, and his players still have high aspirations. Even a pandemic can’t change that.
“For me, I’ve always been a glass-half-full guy that [thinks], ‘How do we move it forward?’” Locksley said. “Because now the decision was made — well, we know that, and it’s, ‘How do we move it forward?’ That’s what I’ve put a lot of my attention into the last day and a half.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox