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Friday, June 14, 2024

UCD Football hopeful for spring season

With the FCS playoff scheduling being released, the spring season takes shape

Right about now, the UC Davis Football team would be in the middle of their season, battling to win their second Big Sky Conference title in three years and capture their second playoff appearance in program history. After what was a lackluster season last year, the team was ready to bounce back and be better this year. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a pause on the football season for the Aggies. 

As we got closer to the would-be season in August, the talk began about whether the season would even happen. After all, a lot of the conferences were located in states where gatherings, like a football practice, were not allowed. As time ticked on the season, conferences began to pull out, deciding to go in a direction of a spring season. Conferences like the Big Sky and the Pioneer Football League opting for spring meant that a bulk of the FCS playoff contenders would not be participating and they would be unable to field 50% of the teams needed to hold a playoff, thus, leaving the NCAA with no choice but to move the season and playoffs to the spring. 

There was always skepticism, even outside of the FCS, that college football would take place this year. The teams took a big hit when the Pac 12 and Big 10 conferences decided to postpone their season to the winter. Those were two of the biggest conferences in college football and doubts continued to creep in. Conferences like the Southeastern Conference, BIG 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference, however, remained adamant that a season would occur. In the end, both the Pac 12 and BIG 10 decided to eventually come back for the fall and the season continues as close to normal as possible. 

It was an easier decision for those conferences to return to play because they had a lot more to lose. FBS schools, specifically the nation’s best, had to take into consideration the major revenue losses and consider whether the cost to keep the athletes safe was worth it. They decided that it was, and they are trying their best to keep everyone as safe and healthy as they could be with many protocols and continuous testing. While it may have been in the best interest of everyone involved to postpone the season, there were major contributing factors that appear in the FBS that don’t apply to the FCS. Still, with not much known about the FCS spring season through mid-September, they received a huge boost. 

On Sept. 22, the NCAA Division I board of directors approved an FCS playoffs made up of 16 teams set for late April. This brings down the number of teams to 24, adding even more pressure for the teams involved to win their conference. The board is leaving the scheduling and the start date of the season up to the conferences. 

A lot can change from now until the start of the FCS season, but for UC Davis football, the upcoming months will be crucial. The program is still awaiting news on the scheduling from the Big Sky and it is expected to be released in the month of October. Being located in a state like California comes with stricter restrictions than other states, but the hope is that there can be Aggie football in the spring. 

“Our football team looks forward to its season in the spring,” said UC Davis athletic director Kevin Blue in a statement to The Aggie. “We will continue to work with campus and public health officials to ensure that the team is able to safely prepare for the season. The game schedule is being finalized by the Big Sky Conference, and we expect games to begin in late February.”

As mentioned, there are a couple hurdles to overcome not only because of the state, but from the county as well. For example, student-athletes are not allowed to share equipment at this time. This includes contact drills and even the passing of a ball. Factors like fans and media are still works in progress, as they are determined by what is allowed at the time of the games. The hope is that restrictions can be loosened between now and the start of the season in February so that the team will be able to practice normally before the games. It helps that the playoffs are scheduled in April, as this gives officials more time to see if any changes to the guidelines can be made.

Many things remain to be sorted out not just for UC Davis, but for the entire FCS. The release of conference schedules will help a great deal, as there will be an exact timeline to work under. The coming months will be crucial for all programs and there will be a better understanding of where the season stands as we inch closer to the start of the season. 

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org


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