Bearcats, AAC moving forward with fall football

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell walks the sideline during a game against Ohio State on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell walks the sideline during a game against Ohio State on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

As the rest of college football seemed to be crumbling around him, Cincinnati Bearcats coach Luke Fickell spent time this week trying to provide answers to his players.

The Mid-American Conference canceled its season on Saturday, the Big Ten and Pac 12 postponed to a potential spring season Tuesday and players and coaches within the UC program couldn’t help wondering if their season is in jeopardy as well.

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The American Athletic Conference so far has vowed to push forward, and UC continues to hold preseason campin preparation for its scheduled opener Sept. 3 against Austin Peay. The Bearcats lost their two other non-conference games to the MAC shutdown against Miami and Western Michigan.

“The only thing I worry about is the mindset of our of our 110, 112, 114 guys that we’ve got out here,” Fickell said in a video news conference Tuesday. “That’s enough. … More than anything, all they want is information. … Somehow we’ve got to just continue to do a great job in communication, and not allow those outside world things to affect us, because a lot of these are going to be dictated to us, but we need to control the things we control.”

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Fickell said he has been in communication with Director of Athletics John Cunningham about trying to add to the schedule, but he’s been especially grateful for the clarity the league has provided.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said during an interview with Memphis’ 92.9 FM ESPN Radio station Monday that the conference’s medical advisors “don’t feel that anything has changed in recent days to prompt a decision like this that comes kind of suddenly” when numbers in counties of The American schools are showing significant percentage decline in COVID-19 cases.

“We think that student athletes could well be and likely will be worse off if they don’t play, for all sorts of reasons we can discuss,” Aresco said in the interview. “They’ve been practicing in one form or another for a couple of months. Here, we have a good outcome right now. I don’t know what it will be like when students come back to campus, but that begs the question if suddenly things go the wrong way, they would have gone the wrong way if these student athletes weren’t playing sports. They might be outside not getting tested, not knowing they have the disease and the outcomes could be a lot worse.”

Asked specifically about those comments, Fickell said he agrees the players are safer in the football environment at UC than away from it.

“I truly believe there’s no better place they’re going to be taken care of, and I mean that not to say they are free from getting the virus, that’s not the case I think no matter what it is we do,” Fickell said. “We are not free from getting the virus unless we quarantine or lock ourselves in our own place. But there’s going to be no better place, where you’re going to be around people that are going to be tested, you’re going to be around people that are trying to do everything that they’re supposed to do, making some sacrificing, making good decisions, and then if you should get it, you’re not going to be care for and treated better.”

Talk of potentially moving the season to the spring seems like a far-fetched idea to Fickell. He doesn’t see how that would work, especially with plans to then pick up the 2021 season in the fall.

“I just think it’s a really difficult situation,” Fickell said. “A lot of our guys have some goals and aspirations to play at the next level and to go spring and try to go fall all over again, no. Personally, if it doesn’t happen (in the fall), it doesn’t get done then, you know, I think it becomes a wash.”