Tramel: BYU-Navy debacle shows why OSU-Tulsa was postponed
When the OSU-Tulsa football postponement news broke Monday night, it was halftime of the Brigham Young-Navy game. BYU led 31-0 in a game not as close as the score indicated.
Those two events are connected in spirit.
OSU-Tulsa was pushed back a week, to Sept. 19, after the Golden Hurricane requested relief. Due to coronavirus issues, TU paused practice Aug. 17-26 and got in only seven of 17 practices allowed in preseason camp.
The game was moved not because COVID-19 necessarily runs rampant around the TU campus. The game was moved because the Golden Hurricane literally was not ready to play Saturday in Stillwater against a top-15 team.
“There is some relief, knowing we’ve got an extra week to prepare,” said TU coach Philip Montgomery. He wasn’t talking about an extra week to figure out how to beat the Cowboys. Montgomery was talking about an extra week to figure out how to stay standing against the Cowboys.
Welcome to college football 2020. Such as it is.
The marquee game of Week 1 came Labor Day night in Annapolis, Maryland, where BYU and Navy played a game that figured to be a tossup.
Before the game, ESPN reported on Navy’s pandemic protocols. Social distancing even in practice. No tackling. Very little hitting.
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Then the game started, and Navy got pulverized. BYU looked like a high school team playing the seventh-graders. One team was physically ready to play. The other team was not. The Cougars won 55-3.
“Obviously, I can’t be definitive,” Montgomery said, trying to be respectful of Navy coach Ken Niumataolo. “But it can lead you down that path. I know Ken really well; everything he was trying to do was taking care of his kids.
“You gotta get ready to play this game. That’s one of the reasons this postponement is going to help both universities. You’re trying to help your team ultimately get ready to play the game at the right pace.”
Navy’s dispiriting performance didn’t make Temple any more eager to play in Annapolis. On Tuesday, the Sept. 26 Temple-at-Navy game was postponed until Oct. 10, because COVID restrictions in the city of Philadelphia limited the Owls from full practices.
“We’re not ready yet,” Temple coach Rod Carey said. “I think you saw that yesterday with Navy as well. I'm not indicting anybody at Navy or anything like that. Everyone has these restrictions. Our team has to be safe to play. I'm not just talking about COVID. I'm talking about football safe.”
That’s the odd thing. Six months ago, football safety was about concussions and torn knee ligaments. We’re so consumed with the COVID, we forget that the other concerns remain. A team that hasn’t practiced much has no business being on the field with a team that has.
Hence OSU-Tulsa moving back a week.
“Can’t just step out there and play,” Montgomery said. “This is about ample time … making sure we are physically ready to play this game. It’s a game that can show your weaknesses in a hurry.”
Tulsa is in a tough spot.
On the high school level, teams in this part of the country are forging ahead and playing without group testing, and if there’s a positive COVID case, everything freezes. Edmond North and Norman, for example, had to cancel each of their first two games.
On the small-college level, teams are waiting until the spring semester to try.
Which leaves the NFL and six major-college conferences. All are spending massive amounts of money on testing and other protocols to attempt a season.
It’s a financial strain on Big 12, SEC and ACC schools. It’s an incredible burden on schools like Tulsa, which have far fewer financial resources than OSU or OU.
“I don’t know a lot about what everybody else is doing, I just know this is extremely expensive,” Mike Gundy said. “The financing and certain things that are being provided for our players is for all the right reasons. I can’t imagine how difficult this would be with budget limitations on the testing and all the different areas that our medical staff has gone above and beyond.
“It’s not just the testing, it’s when you get players back that have tested positive and the procedures they’ve gone through, that everything with their body is back and up and running before they play in games. That’s extremely expensive here at Oklahoma State.”
Montgomery said TU has increased testing as the season nears, to thrice a week.
“It’s difficult across the board,” Montgomery said. “But everybody’s committed to playing. We all want to play. That’s what the student-athletes deemed. The university, I take my hat off to them. They’ve stepped up.”
Montgomery offered some common sense on what the practice pause meant for Tulsa. The lack of practice hurt conditioning much more than techniques and execution. It’s a lot easier to fall out of shape than get into shape. Coaches were mindful not to push too hard once practice resumed, because that could lead to injuries.
Clearly, the Sept. 12 opening date was a concern since practice stopped. Finally, over the weekend, OSU and Tulsa agreed on postponing.
Anyone who saw the BYU-Navy game knows it was the right decision.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.