Boston College waited nine weeks to get to its bye and, when the time off finally came, even that was complicated.
A COVID-19 outbreak at Miami created a ripple effect that rearranged schedules for several teams across the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Hurricanes had to quarantine for two weeks after more than a dozen players tested positive for the virus. The ACC had to reschedule their final three games of the season, which meant that other games had to be shuffled to make it work.
Initially, the conference shifted BC’s home game against Louisville, which was originally set for Nov. 27, to Dec. 12, stretching the Eagles’ bye to two weeks. Then the conference pivoted again, moving the Louisville game to Saturday at 4 p.m.
The only explanation BC coach Jeff Hafley could come up with was, “It’s 2020. It’s COVID.”
As the country faces the second wave of the pandemic, college football is dealing with how to complete its season. The adjustments the Eagles dealt with were fine with Hafley as long as it meant the ACC was finding a way to play games.
“Truthfully, if you were to ask me to explain to you how our game got switched because of Miami not being able to play and this team shuffling, this team shuffling, this team shuffling, I’d have no idea how to explain it to you,” he said. “All I was told was our game had to move to set up some other games and I said, ‘OK. As long as we have to play, I’m good.’ But it shows you how quickly things could change.”
Logistically, Hafley was able to give his players and staff much-needed rest after a run of nine straight games, including a stretch that saw them play No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Notre Dame in three weeks. After starting the season 3-1, the Eagles are 2-3 in their last five games. After Louisville, they wrap up the season on Dec. 5 at Virginia.
The off week was beneficial for quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who played the previous two games after separating his shoulder in the Clemson game.
“He needed the week,” Hafley said. “He probably needed the week a little bit sooner. Again appreciate his toughness, but he’s good. He didn’t really throw all week. Just kind of rested him. From the looks of it today, he was on point.”
The time off was welcome, but the possibility of going two weeks without a game struck defensive lineman Brandon Barlow as a bit much.
“There was a lot of ambiguity with the schedule,” Barlow said. “But once we got it nailed down, we were all pretty happy. Two bye weeks in a row isn’t an ideal situation. It can cause a little lackadaisical-ness in the program. So we’re happy to be able to hit it this week like we were supposed to.”
The changes did throw off some of Hafley’s planning. When it appeared the Eagles would have a two-week break, he wanted to give his coaches the day off last Friday. But when he heard rumblings that the Eagles might have to play this Friday, he had them come in the office. They found out the next day the game wouldn’t be played until Saturday.
“So I kind of messed that up and could have given the guys more time off,” Hafley said. “It is what it is, man.”
More than anything, the changes emphasized how fragile the season has been. While the Eagles have remained free of any COVID-19 cases, no other school in the conference — and few schools playing football across the country — can say the same.
“I got a bunch of calls over the bye week where other coaches were like, ‘How in the world are you doing this?’ ” Hafley said. “These kids need so much credit.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.