JMU football dealing with impact of COVID-19

Published: Mar. 18, 2020 at 12:09 PM EDT
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Like many other teams around the country, James Madison football is adjusting its schedule to COVID-19.

"I think that anyone in athletics will tell you they have never been apart of anything like this," said JMU head coach Curt Cignetti. "Basically the whole sports industry is shut down."

Included in that shut down is JMU's 2020 spring football season. It was cancelled along with all other spring sports at James Madison in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has become a global pandemic.

"The coaches are working remotely and there is a lot that can be done remotely," said Cignetti. "But our priority is obviously the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. Our concerns are with them, their routines have been disrupted and things are changing fast and changing every single day."

With James Madison University moving classes online, Cignetti says the immediate focus for the program is making sure players are set up for academic success.

Meanwhile, in terms of football, Cignetti is spending time evaluating video of prospective recruits in the Class of 2021. The NCAA recently announced it has suspended in-person recruiting through April 15 in response to COVID-19.

"We're going to be putting together a class of high school students in 2021 at some point," said Cignetti. "Right now, what can we control? And that is sort of Hudl high school highlights."

Hudl is a video service many high schools uses to upload game video.

As for JMU's current team, the players are unable to practice or even workout in any of their own facilities until further notice. The Dukes lose a large senior class but return a talented roster that features multiple players who played important roles in 2019 when JMU finished as FCS national runner-up.

"We have a lot of guys coming back that have played significant minutes of football," said Cignetti. "They've been in the program for three of four years. We have a strong junior class that's going to be a senior class. There weren't going to be significant schematic changes...we still have a lot of veterans on this football team and when the time comes we will be up and running."

Many of the public health measures currently put in place in regards to COVID-19 don't have a timeline that stretches into the upcoming football season. But with CDC guidelines and recommendations changing rapidly, it's hard to predict how long the virus could continue to impact the world of sports.

"I think anything is possible," said Cignetti. "But I think you gotta look at this thing optimistically. We're going to take it one day at a time...Hypothetically anything could happen but I am optimistic in August we are going to be practicing football."

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