Far from the usual pageantry of M&T Bank Stadium, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) hosted their annual media day via Zoom on Tuesday afternoon. Commissioner Joe D’Antonio kicked off the media availability speaking about the logistics of the upcoming fall season for the CAA and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
“The 2021 football season brings with it a renewed sense of optimism,” said D’Antonio in his opening remarks. “The excitement to hopefully return to some reasonable level of normalcy, to play a full regular season, to have teams make the playoffs, and certainly within the CAA to compete for the FCS National Championship in Frisco.”
The question of what protocols the CAA will require for individuals who have received the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine as well as for those who have not was brought to the table multiple times during the commissioner’s availability. While he didn’t provide a concrete plan, D’Antonio did confirm that there will be testing measures for those who have not been vaccinated. He didn’t rule out the same procedures for individuals who have received the vaccine.
“We haven’t finalized those scenarios yet but are working very closely with our physicians to put those plans in place, and we will have them in place likely very soon,” he said.
Among other hot topics heading into the training camp pertains to which policies will be put into place if contests are unable to be played due to a COVID-19 outbreak within a program. D’Antonio once again didn’t show his cards in terms of what exactly the conference is thinking; however, he has been in contact with coaches and athletic directors and expects a plan to be in place “in the very near future.”
When asked about his knowledge on the percentage of individuals vaccinated within the conference, D’Antonio urged the media to save those questions for the specific institutions. He did, however, note that he anticipates a very high number of student-athletes to be vaccinated.
University of New Hampshire (UNH) head coach Sean McDonnell wasn’t as shy about where he expects the numbers to be within his program. McDonnell hopes to have 80-85% of his players vaccinated ahead of preseason camp.
The coaching staff brought in former UNH graduate and team doctor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Fred Brennan, to speak to the athletes about pros, cons and other scenarios relating to the vaccine. McDonnell didn’t seem concerned about having to sway many of his players to receive the vaccine, however.
“I just truly believe the kids are going to make the best decision in best interest in getting the opportunity to play football after only getting to play one game last spring; that’ll be the light at the end of the tunnel for us,” the head coach explained.
The Wildcats’ lone spring game was played on March 5 when they hosted UAlbany and eventually lost 24-20 to the Great Danes. A handful of cancelations in the ensuing weeks led to the plug being pulled on the team’s spring campaign.
Defensive end Brian Carter and tight end Jack Cavallaro are the only two players not returning for the fall season according to McDonnell. He even went as far to say this may be the best summer he’s seen in regards to players being on campus and working through their offseason regiments.
Media day was kicked off by the release of preseason rankings and all-conference honors. UNH came in ranking fifth in the conference with senior safety Evan Horn as the team’s lone all-conference selection. The Wildcats came in a little light comparatively to schools like the rising Delaware Blue Hens and FCS powerhouse James Madison University (JMU). The lack of preseason accolades doesn’t seem to bother McDonnell, however.
“We have a lot of very good football players coming back, unfortunately we weren’t able to show that in the spring. We feel very good about where we are in the program depth-wise.”
UNH will kick-off the fall season for the conference when they go on the road to face Stony Brook on Sept. 2. The home opener will be the following week when they welcome Towson into Wildcat Stadium on Sept. 11.
Photo Courtesy of CAASports.com