A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Louisville football coach ‘sitting in limbo’ as pandemic disrupts normalcy for college athletics

By Rocco Gasparro
University of Louisville

Everyone would love to see football back soon, but no one wants it to return more than University of Louisville head football coach Scott Satterfield.

Since heading home after spring break in mid-March, the second-year head coach hasn’t seen his squad in almost two months, but he hopes that will end soon as most of the country returns back to work in the upcoming weeks.

“I think in all of our talks that we have, we feel like we are coming back and playing,” Satterfield said. “We don’t know when, but we are all sitting in limbo. We are coming up with plans to return to play. We have a consensus six-week return to play. We are trying to have a plan to get our players back on campus to start working out and train. We are at the mercy at what our leaders are telling us at this time.

“We hope when Kentucky starts to open up, we’d love to bring our guys in incrementally and break it down to workable groups. We just want to get our guys in here.”

Louisville football coach Scott Satterfield figures he will need six weeks to get his players ready to go for the start of the season.

In a typical world, the Cardinals would be heading back to campus in late May to begin summer conditioning, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put plans on hold, which has added a lot of questions for the staff on what the next steps would be at this time.

“We are planning for a little bit of everything,” Satterfield said. “Whatever we are going to have to do. In a perfect world, we would get our guys back in June. We would have June and July to get our guys ready to play, and then we’d start practice. The first thing is we have an interest in is the safety of our kids. We need to see how in shape they are and we would be very delicate with them during this time.”

With so many scenarios out there regarding the 2020 football season, no one knows what to expect with the amount of uncertainty out there.

One thing that has been thrown out there by many journalists has been playing football without fans in the stands, which Satterfield isn’t sure he’d be in favor if he had a choice.

“Football is a spectator sport, there is no doubt….. it’s hard to envision having football without fans in the stands,” Satterfield said. “But I think if you poll people they’d rather have football (however they can get it). In the collegiate model, athletic departments rely on the revenue generated by ticket sales. We don’t know what it’s going to look like.

“I think the data over the next two weeks, or the next month. I don’t know, but only time will tell where we are at with the numbers.”

With social distancing being the norm throughout the world, Satterfield and his staff have adjusted to being away from one another, and trying to recruit when you can’t have physical contact with families or recruits.

“We are getting accustomed to these types of calls. I think I’ve been on five of these types of calls over the last two days,” Satterfield said. “We are able to see our staff through these types of calls, and the staff has done a great job of recruiting, getting into these families’ homes through technology.

“Our staff has been tremendous through this process. One thing we lack is the personal connection. One of our strengths is being around our staff, and recruits get a sense of that, but it’s hard to generate through a computer screen.”

Large crowds gathered to watch Louisville football games last season as Scott Satterfield was named ACC Coach of the Year.

The Cardinals have tried to do some innovative tricks in the recruiting process to keep up some of the momentum generated from the team’s 8-5 season that culminated with a bowl win over Mississippi State. Satterfield and his staff are doing what they can do under unique circumstances.

“We are breaking down things for recruits on the computer screen,” Satterfield said. “We are showing them campus, the facilities, where they would be staying, and showing them downtown,” Satterfield said. “We try to bring different staff on those calls. If we are recruiting a certain type of player, we might bring a position coach on, or we may bring the entire staff on. We just try to introduce recruits to the people who they might come into contact when they are on campus.”

Another recruiting feather in the cap was the recent selection of offensive tackle Mekhi Becton in the first round, the third-highest player ever drafted in school history. The 6-foot-7 offensive lineman was drafted No. 11 by the New York Jets with the No. 11 pick in late April.

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“It has put our program in a positive light,” Satterfield said. “What he was able to accomplish this year was great. We knew he would go pro, but we didn’t know when and where. To his credit, he worked his tail off to become a dominant player against some really good defensive ends.

“For him to get drafted that high speaks volumes of our coaching staff and the work that Mekhi put in last season.”

Satterfield keeps in touch with his players as much as possible, including weekly team meetings through Zoom calls. While it’s hard to see the progress the players are making with their bodies, the 2019 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year is confident his team in putting in the work for what could be a better 2020 season.

“Our guys have been very resilient,” Satterfield said. “They are hungry. They can’t wait to get back to campus. We can’t monitor their workouts, but from all indication our team is putting in great work. As a football team, we are trying to hold everyone accountable.

“If we can have that player-to-player accountability, that’s when you can have a great team.”

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