As Steve Addazio vaguely laid out the CSU Rams' manpower
problems on Monday -- per my commentary below -- and the New Mexico Lobos continued to cope with positive COVID-19 tests,
it was fairly obvious the Saturday season opener for both teams at Canvas Stadium was endangered.
When the word of the cancellation came Tuesday from the Mountain
West Conference, the issues in the Albuquerque area and in the New Mexico program were the reasons cited. But CSU was having
I noted, at least on Monday, Addazio wasn't pressed to provide specifics on the reasons for the eye-popping number of absences
from practices over the past couple of weeks -- i.e., how many players had tested positive for COVID-19 and how many weren't
practicing because of quarantine and contact tracing caution.
Because the Mountain West won't even try to make up scrubbed games, this was phrased a cancellation rather than a
postponement. So now, if they're green-lighted, the Rams' first three games -- at Fresno State, at home against Wyoming, and
at Boise State -- will be on Thursday nights.
Also below, I picked CSU to go 3-5.
I'm going to adjust that.
I'll take 2-3. And say that hoping
the Rams get in five games.
Steve Addazio during spring practices, before the shutdown.
Under these unfortunate and bizarre circumstances, virtually nothing -- from
8-0 to 0-8 -- would be shocking for CSU in Steve Addazio's first season with the Rams.
OK, that's an exaggeration, especially
on the undefeated end. But not much of one.
Five days before the Rams' delayed 2020 opener against New Mexico at what is set to
be a fan-less Canvas Stadium, Addazio met with the media on a Zoom call Monday (above) and conceded the uniqueness of the
situation. In fact, one of the uncertainties is that the New Mexico program has been hit hard by COVID-19 issues, and the
game is far from guaranteed to go as scheduled.
To his credit, Addazio several times emphasized every college football program is facing
similar challenges in this bizarre 2020.
Also, without providing a specific rundown of the reasons and the numbers, Addazio
dropped hints that the Rams' preseason practices have been affected by considerably diminished attendance.
"We're down 20s
of players per practice," he said.
Kelly Lyell of the Coloradoan asked if that was the case every practice.
"It's kind of
been that way for the last 10 days," Addazio said. "You're asking, so I'm telling you. I'm not out here whining
about it, but you asked the question, yeah, that's the answer. I don't even know the number. .. I would say to you comfortably
15 to 20 (absent) probably every day in a different form. Maybe there's a day where it's a little better. We were without
a dozen linemen for the better part of the last 12 days. We've had our issues and we're continuing to have our issues right
now and I'm not going to go into the depths of all those right now.
"There's a lot to this whole thing. It's not just about whether someone has actually
gotten sick or not, either, right. There's the whole contact tracing element here, and there's all kinds of stuff that's going
Addazio said starters have switched positions just to get the Rams through practices.
The CSU athletic department last
issued updated figures on results of COVID-19 tests on Sept. 30. On the one hand, privacy and sensitivity issues are important,
but this is also a public pandemic and CSU is a state university, so at least specific numbers minus names would be appropriate.
Do I have to draw you a map?
"Today's Monday," Addazio said. "I don't know what tomorrow brings.I
don't know what Thursday brings. You just don't know. You could feel great about where your teams is at on a Tuesday and then
on a Friday or Saturday morning, you could find out you're without seven guys ... You have to stay steady in the boat. You
have to have contingency plans."
I asked Addazio if he's uneasy about the extent to which he has been able to put his
imprint on this program heading into the season, compared to when he took over at Temple and Boston College.
he said. "Let's be real. Got here, got on the road, got recruiting, had the winter program, went into spring ball, felt
like wow, here we go, this is great. Six, seven practices in, it's over. You're separated from the team for months. For everybody.
It's not just us, it's for everybody. . . Some fluky things will happen in this season, I just do. You've already seen some
unbelievable upsets and things that are not normal happening. I think we all know why that is. But at the end of the
day, having the kids having a chance to go out and compete and play, and having a chance to build and develop your program,
it only helps you moving forward."
Next I asked him how good the football can be and how how weird it will be to play
in front of no fans.
"I forgot about that," Addazio said, laughing darkly. "I don't know. Again, it's kind of
new. It's kind of hard to know that, right? Sense would tell it will grow each week. That starting point, you hope it's at
a pretty good level, but if it's not, you just have to get it better the next week. I think you have to have a big picture
view of this whole thing. What I love about college football is the pageantry, I love that part of it. I love the fans, the
student sections, all that. That's all gone."
There are two issues involved here. One is the difficulty
of making it through the transition period under trying circumstances for a coach taking over a program. But it's also where
having a veteran head coach -- in his first year or 15th year at a specific program -- can be a major advantage.
So where does this leave the Rams?
I've written about the difficulty
Karl Dorrell is facing at CU as the Buffs' first year head coach, given Mel Tucker's sudden departure, Dorrell's late hiring
and getting in zero spring practices.
Up the road at CSU, the Rams' situation is different, and probably not as difficult
given the imbalanced nature of the Mountain West.
Anything can happen, but I'll take the Rams to beat New Mexico and UNLV, plus snag
one more win from Fresno State, Wyoming and Utah State. (And also lose to Boise State, Air Force and San Diego State.)
That works out to