The longer he’s been stuck at home, away from his players, the more Tom Allen has tried to identify the positives in the current situation.
Indiana’s football coach has found that teleconferencing with his players and assistants via Zoom and FaceTime has made those meetings more efficient and, in some cases, more productive. He’s found his recruiting bandwidth expanded, connecting with players and their families at times of the day when he’d otherwise be unavailable or busy on campus. And maybe most important to Allen, he’s found more time to spend with his family, both as a husband and a father.
He and his wife, Tracy, have bonded through listening to audiobooks together, and when time allows, the two of them have enjoyed evening walks through their neighborhood. He’s also tackling a honey-do list, fixing things around the house and working on projects that he’s typically not available to complete.
“I was caught on a ladder a few days ago and that’s a pretty rare sight,” Allen said Wednesday. “We do have a family joke because on one of our moves in the past, I was trying to put some things together from an electrical perspective and blew up our washer and dryer because I hooked them up the wrong way.”
So the extra time at home has allowed Allen to brush up on his technical skills. All the while, he’s staying optimistic about the college football season, too. At a time when new information related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic seems to be emerging daily, the college football world is considering contingencies and wondering whether games will be played as scheduled this fall. In between home improvements, family time and video chats with those from his program, Allen is monitoring the chatter and remaining hopeful that he’ll be able to coach football games in the near future.
“We’re going to plan like we are going to be playing,” Allen said. “We don’t know when, where or how, but in my mind, I just believe that there’s a lot of time. We’re sitting here, it’s April. There’s a lot of time between now and when these final decisions have to be made. I’m an optimistic guy. I believe that the people that are working hard on this across the country and across the world (will) help us figure it out.”
In the meantime, universities across the country are preparing for the possibility that the fall semester will be conducted remotely. Just last week, commissioners from the major college conferences told Vice President Mike Pence that there will not be a college football season until students are permitted to return to campus.
The topic of contingency planning comes up almost daily in Allen’s meetings with staffers. Players are already working out on their own at home, preparing for the season as best they can. And while, yes, everybody wants to have a college football season to look forward to in 2020, it’s unclear how soon impactful decisions will be made.
“I know we all want to have a season, but we all want to do it in a way that’s safe for everybody involved. To me, I’m just going to take the approach that people get paid to make these decisions and evaluate from a health perspective. We’re going to trust them and we’re going to trust leadership of our state, and our federal government, and the NCAA, and our Big Ten Conference. As a group, we’ll come together and make the best decision possible, and once they tell us when and where we can come back, we’ll have a great plan. I feel like we have a flexible response right now that’s ready to take advantage of whatever we’re told to do.”
Even with his optimism, Allen says he understands the logistics of the situation and doesn’t want to risk the health and safety of anyone — players, students, university employees and support staff — until the all-clear comes from those in positions of power.
So for now, he’s just waiting. And hoping. And finishing some projects around the house.
“The health and safety of our players is the number one priority, period,” Allen said. “That’s going to drive our decisions, and we are going to listen to the medical experts, and the government officials, and the leadership of our university. Those people will make these decisions, and when they tell us it’s safe to come back, then we’ll come back.”