CHENEY, Wash. — Eastern Washington football head coach Aaron Best saw the writing on the wall. That didn’t lessen the blow though.
“I think like anything, when you get a decision made, no matter if you've anticipated it or not, it still stings,” said Best of the Big Sky’s decision to move their football season to the spring.
Best believes though that it was the best decision for his program with so many unknowns surrounding COVID-19.
“I don't know if relief is the right word, but you can rest easier knowing that the coaches, the players, and the support staff are not put in a precarious situation,” said Best.
So now he turns his attention to the spring. He has a pretty good metaphor for his vision, or lack thereof, of how that season may look.
“Having never done it's almost like, ‘Hey, you know, how's Paris?’ ‘Well, from the pictures it looks awesome.’ It will be different. It will be different and those are challenges that we’ll face when we get there,” he said.
One of the greatest concerns about playing in the spring are the injuries that could be compounded if teams play in the spring and then again in the fall. In Best’s mind, injuries can happen anywhere on any day, and having a spring season isn’t going to do anything to change that.
“It does concern me, but it's not something you can be fearful of,” said Best. “Injuries are something you cannot stay away from. You hope for the best in any situation, but I've seen many injuries happen outside the football setting, outside of the fall setting, on Saturdays, on Tuesdays, in the weight room. It's a really unfortunate part of athletics.”
If we see Eastern suit up in the spring, Best and company are hoping it’ll be against the teams they were scheduled to play in the fall as Eastern had one of their best ever Big Sky schedules.
It included hosting Montana, Idaho, Weber State, and Montana State at Roos Field and an away game at UC Davis. Montana, Weber State, Montana State, and UC Davis all are in the FCS top 25 coming into this season.
“Maybe I'll make a call to Tom Wistrcill (Big Sky commissioner) and give him a little wink or a little, you know, something via text or email to say, ‘Hey, you know, take a look at this schedule and fall for Eastern and maybe employ that as we go forward in the spring.’ But certainly that schedule is something that we looked forward to this fall, and hopefully we can look forward to this spring. It sets up in a lot of ways that were really good for a lot of different reasons,” said Best.
The Big Sky did leave the door open for teams in their conference to compete in three non-conference games this fall if they choose.
Eastern will not be doing that, and Best issues a stern thought to those institutions entertaining that idea.
“I’ll just say this: To each its own. You've made your own decisions,” said Best. “I would say only take the 18 to 23 year olds, health, safety, and wellness into the highest and most amount of consideration when making any decision whether it's this one, or any practice setting, any live setting, any academic setting. Those are the most important people to us and allow us to do what we love to do as coaches. This coach’s institution? We're not excited about any opportunity putting our kids, our staff, our support staff in any amount of harm's way based on a non-conference setting when the conference season was moved.”