If there is an asterisk next to the Longhorns’ 2020 season, it won’t matter to Texas head coach Tom Herman.
Never before has a college football season been played with limited or no fans in attendance and never with questions about whether a fall championship can be considered legitimate with two of the Power Five conferences not playing.
However, the restrictions of the 2020 fall season won’t take anything away from the Longhorns’ success, Herman said in a Monday teleconference.
“I think we certainly understand the gravity of this season and the challenges that are laid out in front of us,” Herman said. “(And) we do know that if you come away from this crazy season with a championship under your belt, you’ve done something truly remarkable.”
Herman said the coaching staff is continuing to emphasize the importance of social distancing and other recommended practices to slow the spread of COVID-19. He also said players are not quarantined, and they have the freedom to go to stores and restaurants.
As schools across the country postpone games and practices, Herman said COVID-related issues faced by other universities show how special this season will be. SMU and TCU announced last week their annual rivalry game would be postponed after a number of TCU players and staff tested positive for the virus. Rice University announced Sunday it would delay practicing until the end of September due to COVID-19 infection rates in the Houston area.
“I think the more and more of those things pop up throughout the season with different teams and different conferences, our guys are going to realize how truly special this season is,” Herman said. “If it is an asterisk, then I hope the asterisk says, ‘This was really, really hard to accomplish in 2020.’”
Herman said he still has his day-to-day football concerns, like finalizing his depth chart and addressing the lack of depth at linebacker and receiver, but his biggest concern is making it through the full season.
“(One of the) things I’m worried about is making it through the dang season,” Herman said. “We’ve got to be able to sustain this level of diligence the entire season, which for a group of 120 18- to 22-year-olds is going to be difficult but certainly not impossible.”
If Texas does make it through the full season, it might be the strangest and most precautious one ever. Masks will be worn at all times on the sideline by anyone who doesn’t have a helmet on, and student-athletes will be tested Sunday, Wednesday and Friday before a game.
The traditional home-field advantage of more than 60,000 screaming fans won’t be present in 2020. Neither will the electricity in the atmosphere that can only be found at a Saturday night prime-time game. But Herman said these are things the Longhorns can live with if they’re able to play.
“It’s been nine months since we played an actual opponent, so these guys are going to be extremely excited to play,” Herman said. “We will play games in a parking lot if we have to.”