As he contemplated the worsening coronavirus pandemic, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson considered the corresponding fallout.
“Praying football season doesn’t get cancelled …,” Thompson-Robinson tweeted Sunday.
The Bruins’ season opener against New Mexico State at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 29 is on — for now — but their spring game scheduled for April 18 was canceled Monday in a widely expected move.
The cancellation came after the Pac-12 Conference extended the suspension of organized team activities through May 31. The Bruins held only three spring practices before activities were shut down as a result of the deepening crisis.
“The coronavirus itself, it’s a very, very serious thing, and any time you get a situation like that, you better be prepared,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said March 5 in his only meeting with reporters during spring practice. “If they say we can’t have a gathering because of it, then we won’t have a gathering because of it. There’s no reason for us to put anybody in harm’s way.”
The Pac-12 announced Monday that no organized in-person team activities of any kind could be held through the end of May, leaving athletes to work out in the safety of their own homes.
UCLA has distributed at-home workout kits to all of its athletes, including resistance bands, a slider, jump rope and a foam roller. Each athlete has an individualized workout plan accessible through the MyFitnessPlan app.
“You’ve got to get a little bit creative,” Bruins tight end Greg Dulcich said of at-home workouts during a telephone interview from his Glendale home. “It’s a lot of core stuff because you don’t need much equipment for that. We’ve got a couple of weights but nothing that can really compare with what we’ve got over at school, so you’ve got to get creative with it for sure. You can still get good work in, especially with the stuff coach [Frank] Wintrich sends us — it’s a lot of interesting things that you wouldn’t have thought of.”
Dulcich said that Wintrich, the team’s performance coordinator, was staying engaged with the team, even if the social distancing guidelines required him to do so electronically.
“He’s been really good at keeping us motivated, keeping us active and making sure we’re taking advantage of all this free time we have to stay in shape and keep building our bodies for the season,” Dulcich said.
Meetings have been shifted from the film room inside the Wasserman Football Center to virtual sessions via Zoom, requiring players from each position group to dissect film and even suggest their own plays and coverages. The Pac-12 said virtual group activities involving football film study were limited to two hours per week, though the conference was appealing that restriction with the NCAA to increase the limit.
Dulcich said players had continually checked in on one another through a team-wide text group as well as text chats broken into grade level and position groups. As of Friday, Dulcich said everybody seemed to be OK.
“It looks like everyone’s doing well,” Dulcich said, “so that’s a good sign.”
Although the loss of the rest of spring practice will deprive the Bruins of 12 scheduled sessions before the start of fall camp — should it start on time — Dulcich said he anticipated minimal impact given the circumstances.
“I think just the staff is going to do a good job of keeping us in a football mindset and doing their best to make sure we’re as prepared as we can be physically and in terms of our football IQ for next season,” Dulcich said, “so I think we’ll be all right.”