The 2020 college football season has been thwarted by COVID-19, but this isn't the first time Tom Herman has dealt with a virus.
The Texas head football coach served as the offensive coordinator at Iowa State in 2009, when H1N1, popularly known as the swine flu, had taken hold of the United States. Herman said he remembers the team chartering two private planes for a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, so that they could separate players sick with fevers from their unaffected teammates.
The current situation is different. The Longhorns will travel to Lubbock this weekend to face Texas Tech in its Big 12 opener, and all players will be seated on the same plane with masks on. Still, after doing some of his own research, Herman said he recognizes the risk of a road trip.
“I think probably the biggest thing is what I have learned about the contact tracing on an airplane,” Herman said in a Monday teleconference. “If a kid tests positive within 20-48 hours of being on that airplane, the two rows behind him and the two rows in front of him are going to get wiped out, and that’s regardless of wearing a mask.”
Seating the airplane strategically will be a challenge, Herman said. After the team arrives in Lubbock, maintaining safety protocol won’t be as difficult.
Ahead of Texas’ home opener against UT-El Paso Sept. 12, Herman said players stayed in hotel rooms by themselves the night prior. In their rooms, they ate meals by themselves, rather than with the whole team like usual. The Longhorns will do the same thing in Lubbock, he said.
However, this year looks nothing like past seasons.Instead of the players enjoying each other’s company on Fridays ahead of a game, Herman said the message is, “get your food and go to your room.”
“It stinks because that is my favorite day of the week during the season,” Herman said. “I know it’s a lot of our players’ favorite day of the week which is our ‘Family Fridays’ … a time of decompression before the game, a time for fellowship and some fun with your teammates.”
The game itself will differ from most road matchups because crowd noise won’t play much of a factor this year. When the Longhorns kick off at Jones AT&T Stadium Saturday, it will be like playing at home, Herman said.
Texas blew UTEP out 59-3 when the Miners came to Austin. Texas Tech will bring a tougher level of competition. Even though Houston Baptist University nearly upset the Red Raiders in their season opener, Herman said they are still a worthy opponent.
“Just because a team won by two points in Week 1 doesn’t mean they’re not capable of beating you by 21 either,” Herman said. “I would caution everybody. … Let’s not jump to too many conclusions here after one game (after) the craziest offseason in the history of college football.”