Cal Poly Football announced its schedule for the 2020-2021 season on Nov. 4, making it the first Cal Poly sport to release a schedule for an upcoming spring season after being forced to shut down in March 2020.
Both the offense and defense resumed a full training schedule about two weeks ago, and they have practiced three days per week and got to tackle each other, which was something they had not done in over a year, according to senior linebacker Matthew Shotwell.
The 12 Big Sky Conference teams are not permitted to play non-conference games during the spring. Sacramento State also announced they will not be playing in the upcoming spring season.
The Big Sky Conference left two dates — March 20 and April 17 — open to provide for rescheduling in case games are canceled due to COVID-19, according to a press release from Big Sky.
It has not been determined whether fans will be permitted to attend games, and the decision will not be announced until a later date per state and local health guidelines and by government officials.
Head coach Beau Baldwin and his team will begin their six-game season on Feb. 27 against Southern Utah at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, and the team will end the season on April 10 playing Eastern Washington at Roos Field.
Baldwin is entering his first season as head coach of Cal Poly Football. Last season, the Mustangs finished tenth in the conference with a record of 3-8 (2-6 Big Sky).
This season is being cut short from an original 11 game season to six games due to the “short turnaround” of starting the 2021-2022 season in the fall of next year, according to Baldwin.
“Two eleven-game seasons in a matter of six months would be too much football and too much wear and tear on [the] body,” Shotwell said.
A normal spring season would consist of Spring Ball. Incorporating 15 practices and a spring game at the end, Spring Ball is meant to keep athletes’ bodies ready to continue playing.
While the football players will be sent home for Thanksgiving and winter break, Baldwin and his staff are sending “full workouts” to them to make sure they stay in shape and are healthy for the spring season.
Upon returning there will be a “waiting period” to ensure all athletes, coaches and staff members test negative for COVID-19, according to Baldwin.
“We can’t control everything else or where we could be at that point,” Baldwin said. “Everything’s not even day by day, it’s hour by hour.”
Due to the unknown circumstances around COVID-19 and how it will progress during the flu season, the football staff said they are making decisions based on the hour about travel, practices and every other decision for the team.
While travel accommodations are being planned with the Director of Football Operations Hannah Cesario, Shotwell said that travel will look different this year. While the team normally charters flights, they may have to fly commercially from either Los Angeles or San Jose.
The Big Sky Conference said no team will have three consecutive road games to reduce travel. The schedule will also maintain key rivalries and will minimize travel while allotting each team to play at least three opponents from their original Fall 2020 schedule.
Baldwin and Shotwell said they praise the freshman players for being a part of the team and coming in with a “mature” mindset “for a bunch of 18 and 19-year-olds.”
Complimenting the older athletes and new players, Baldwin said that everyone is working hard to stay safe, fit in and prepare for the shortened season.