After the University of New Hampshire had two football games canceled because of COVID-19 issues within the program, UNH coach Sean McDonnell said he began to focus on short-term goals. The most immediate goal on his list is getting positive news after today’s round of COVID testing, which could determine whether or not UNH will play at the University of Rhode Island on April 3.
UNH had a bye one week after it opened the season with a 24-20 loss to Albany on March 5. Then its scheduled game against Delaware (March 20) and this Saturday’s matchup with Villanova were called off.
“Yesterday I went back to something I probably should have kept doing my whole time here with this pandemic,” McDonnell said. “I went back to the one date that we have to get to next. … We should have been saying, ‘How do we get to the (Villanova) game.’ We should have been saying, ‘How do we get to this. How do we get to the next thing on our project?’ And the next thing on our project is playing Rhode Island. That’s the thing we’re all focusing on right now.
“We have not done anything physically, basically, since March 10th, when all this stuff hit. March 11 was a sweatpants walk-through starting our preparation for Delaware, and then that day we got hit and we’ve shut it down since then. We have another test on Thursday (today) that will be a very important test for us that will give us some direction on whether or not we can practice on Friday.”
McDonnell said if the team is not cleared for practice Friday, testing will continue through the weekend. He said ideally he would like to have at least seven practices plus a conditioning period to prepare for a game.
“If we can’t practice (Friday) we’d probably go through some of the same protocols that we went through to make the decision to cancel the Villanova game,” he said. “Right now, the trend is working in the right direction. If we got to Friday and couldn’t go, we’d start right back with the testing. We’d test them Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Get to Monday and figure out where we’re at.”
Including next Saturday’s contest against Rhode Island, UNH has three games remaining in its Colonial Athletic Association spring season. The Wildcats are scheduled to play Stony Brook at home on April 10, and play at Maine on April 17.
James Madison, another member of the CAA, has also had its last two games canceled because of COVID-related protocols within its program.
“It’s trending better right now,” McDonnell said. “The number of positive tests that we have in the program are coming down. Still, contact tracing is very difficult in these situations, so our numbers are not where we need them to be to restart practice. … The kids have been working out on their own for the most part, and what I mean by the most part is they had to do everything on their own, by themselves on the field or at the rec center. They couldn’t be in the building.
“It’s unique. It’s difficult. … None of us have a blueprint.”