The recent change of date for the Camping World Kickoff to open the 2019 season has had mixed reviews. The matchup between Florida and Miami, originally scheduled to take place on August 31, was moved to August 24 last week in a decision by the NCAA to celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football.
With plane tickets and hotel rooms already booked by fans of both teams, it put many in a tough spot. But at the end of the day, it’s about making money.
This game should be a money-maker for all involved and bode well for the winning team. With fans around the country itching for the return of college football, it will be the premiere game of the week and get tons of national attention and coverage.
That’s all great, but what do the teams that actually have to take the field a week earlier than originally planned think?
As Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen gears up for spring, he’s not even thinking past that just yet, but he doesn’t think it will make a huge difference in preparation when the time comes.
“You get 25 practices before you play your first game,” he said. “How we set up and organize our training camp and how we do that, that’s so far out. So really, it has to effect right now. We’ll run training camp the same way we always run training camp.”
While Mullen may not be ready to look ahead that far, he did say he plans to start fall camp as early as possible. He has openly expressed his displeasure with the lack of time teams are given to fit in preseason practices.
The NCAA extended the window for fall a couple years ago, and Mullen said it served his team well. They still had the same number of practices as every other team, but more off days for exams, the first day of classes, recovery, etc.
He noted that year produced the best team GPA he’s had and the fewest injuries.
The opportunity for added rest has been taken away, but with the amped up strength and conditioning program a year ago, Florida did an exceptional job of avoiding the injury bug.
As Mullen explained on Monday, the low injury rates and overall health of his teams is no coincidence. It is something the staff prides itself on.
“That’s one of the things we spend a lot of time on—the health of the players,” he said. “Probably more than anybody else. I know the NCAA, they have doctors and other people study it, but I guarantee they don’t study it as much as we do as coaches trying to make sure our players are healthy and in the best position to succeed … We always plot it out and spend a lot of time with the trainers, strength coaches, everybody on our staff, how to keep everybody mentally fresh.”
With the change in schedule, the Gators will also get a third bye week this season.
That could be an advantage for keeping guys healthy, but it also falls at an odd point. After eight months without playing in a real game, the team is bound to be ready to get back out there.
The winning team will want to keep the momentum rolling into the next Saturday, but a week off will put that to a halt. Then, the losing team will have to sit on the loss and mull it over for two weeks without a chance for redemption.
Of course, the Gators will take a step down in competition with UT Martin on September 7 anyway. Even if they come out flat that game, it likely won’t make a difference in the outcome, but only time will tell if the added break helps or hurts from a mental standpoint.
“You’ve got to ask me in December,” Mullen said. “You ask the question, ‘Does the bye week come at a good time?’ Well, if we win the next game, it did. If we lose the next game, it didn’t. So, I just think it’s all just a scheduling deal of what you do with the program.”
Along with the possible advantages and disadvantages for preparation, recruiting is another thing still up in the air as it relates to this game.
August is a dead period for all college football recruiting, meaning neither team is allowed to host recruits on this date. Even if the date had stayed the same, it would still fall in August, causing the same issue.
That is something Mullen and other coaches have discussed at length looking for some kind of reform.
“The August dead period really should end when you play your game,” Mullen said. “Or if they want to keep it that way, it’s not dead on a game day, so you could host recruits. Being a neutral site game, I don’t think that’s something that’s been addressed. Right now, it’s a non-factor because it’s during a dead period.”
While it is a neutral site game, it takes place at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, just down the road from both schools. It could be a great opportunity for the teams to bring in recruits to watch them play in a nationally prominent game.
If the NCAA did make an exception to exclude game day from the dead period, both teams would have to come together to be co-hosts. Mullen said in this kind of situation, everyone would need to be all in or all out to make it work.
As the season inches closer by the day, new concerns and challenges for this game will continue to arise, but all that matters is college football is back in sight.