OSU football: Cowboys choose family time over extra bowl practices ahead of Cheez-It Bowl vs. Miami
STILLWATER — The last time Oklahoma State played a bowl game in Orlando, the team spent Christmas Day of 2017 at Disney World, then at practice.
Heading back to Orlando this season for the Cheez-It Bowl against No. 18 Miami, OSU coach Mike Gundy has a different plan for Christmas Day in the pandemic times of 2020.
“We’re letting our team go home for three days for Christmas,” Gundy said. “We’ll get back together for a day, and then we’ll take off and play in the bowl. This will be more like a traditional week for us, which is about three practices, because we made the decision to let our players go home and spend time with their families over Christmas.
“We thought that was more important than the extra practice days during this time of year with all the players have dealt with because of the virus.”
So the No. 21 Cowboys’ trip to Orlando for the Cheez-It Bowl — set to kick off at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 at Camping World Stadium, televised by ESPN — will be more like a regular road game, with the team flying in the day before the game instead of spending nearly a week at the bowl destination.
Disney World and Universal Studios will have to wait for another day, but some overdue family time will fill the void.
“They’ll be home for three nights,” Gundy said of his players. “We made the decision as a staff a couple weeks ago that when we got to this point, we were gonna sacrifice the three or four extra practices to allow our players to be able to be with their families during this time of year.
“We felt like that would benefit our organization more than the practices, based on what we’ve all been through with the virus.”
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Of course, letting players go home raises the danger of COVID-19 exposure, and heightens the importance of players’ personal responsibility in big groups. The Cowboys have handled it well so far this season, without a starter having to miss a game because of COVID-19 protocols.
“That’s part of it,” Gundy said. “They’ve been fabulous all year. They’ve been very mature.
“We’ve asked them to be very careful when they go home, try to stay away from people as much as possible. You know, as much as you want to hug and kiss on everybody, you gotta refrain from it right now, just like we all do at the house. It’s just something we have to deal with right now. It’s a decision we made, but our players are very mature, and hopefully they’ll be able to handle that. When they get back, we’ll get ‘em tested up and then we’ll be able to head down and play in the bowl game.”
The Cowboys are appearing in a bowl game for the 15th consecutive season, the longest stretch in school history and the seventh-longest active streak in college football.
“Our team made the decision to move forward and play, and we were excited about that,” Gundy said of the choice to play a bowl game when some teams are opting out. “I’m a strong believer in we finish what we start, so I was happy that the team wanted to stay together and get three or four more practices, and then have an opportunity to play in the bowl game.”
Stadium capacity is expected to be limited to 20 percent for the game.
“We’re so excited to have the opportunity to host these guys and try and give them, in the environment we currently live in, the best possible memory we can,” Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said.
“We’ll meet every protocol that allows 20 percent of our facility to be filled with fans for this year, so hopefully it will be at least somewhat of an environment for the kids, to send them off in their final game.”