By Nick Giannandrea
Now that new College of the Sequoias football coach Travis Burkett has his marching orders, he's ready to get to work on what promises to be the most unique season in program history.
Burkett learned on July 9th that football -- as well as all other fall sports, which, at COS also includes women's volleyball, men's and women's cross country, and men's and women's soccer -- has been shifted to the spring following a unanimous vote of the California Community College Athletic Association's Board of Directors.
The implementation of the CCCAA's "contingency" plan is a precautionary measure taken to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes and school personnel during the global coronavirus pandemic, which has infected upward of 3 million Americans and taken the lives of more than 136,000 people over the past six months.
The CCCAA halted winter sports before the conclusion of the state men's and women's basketball championships and canceled spring sports in midseason back in March when the virus first started taking hold.
"We've been getting ready since March 29 when (COS Superintendent/President) Brent Calvin offered me the position, and we'll keep getting ready," said Burkett, who was selected the 22nd head coach in the 91-year history of the Giants' football program after spending the past three seasons at UNLV and 15 seasons as an NCAA Division I assistant overall.
"Now we have definition of what we can and can't do. That gives us the opportunity to plan our training and plan our program. I could not be more proud to be affiliated with an organization that made this decision. This is clearly, at this time most importantly, in the best interests of student-athlete's health, safety and well being."
Under the CCCAA's "contingency" plan, the Giants' first in-person practice under Burkett is set for Jan. 18. COS' seven-game season -- reduced 30% by state mandate -- would start Feb. 13, with conference play concluding April 6.
Northern California Regional playoffs, should the Giants get that far, are April 10 and April 17. There will be no state championships in any California community college sport in 2020-2021.
"We have great leadership in Brent Calvin and (COS Athletics Director) Brent Davis," Burkett said. "It's not an exaggeration to say they have saved the ship as this thing has progressed. They made sure our voice was heard, and they made sure the safety and well-being at COS was served."
The Giants are currently in the middle of a six-week summer workout program being conducted through distance learning that will conclude July 24. The fall academic semester, also to be conducted through distance learning, is set to begin Aug 17.
All players have had individual workout plans developed by COS assistant Mason Ruiz. The players also meet daily with coaches for three-hour video conferencing meetings starting with current events updates and moving into segments on team administration, player and spiritual development, special teams and kicking game, football 101 going over rules and game situations, leadership, separate meetings for offense and defense, before finishing up with academics, strength and conditioning, and a guest speaker.
The Giants will continue to train in a modified, socially distant style until in-person practice is allowed to begin in January.
"We have modified our training based on pandemic conditions," Burkett said. "We have an absolutely first-class group of coaches who have been shepherding our players, and they will continue to do so.
"I'm really proud of the players and coaches for not ever making any excuses about anything. I'm proud to be affiliated with them."
COS went 6-5 overall and 3-2 in the Central Valley Conference last season while qualifying for a postseason bowl for the first time in 10 years.