There will be football at Stocker Stadium this fall.
Colorado Mesa has scheduled four football games this fall, two at home, starting Oct. 10, with the possibility of adding two or three more.
“I asked the seniors in a meeting right after they said we’re going to move to the spring, I asked them, ‘What do you want me to do? You want me to go fight to get you four or five games?’ ’’ first-year coach Tremaine Jackson said Monday. “It’s not feasible to play college football in the spring and turn around and play in the fall. When you talk about health and safety, that’s what they forget about.”
The seniors were overwhelmingly in support of playing even a handful of games this fall.
The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference presidents voted in early August to move fall team sports (football, volleyball, soccer) back to the spring semester, but one week later gave schools the leeway to schedule conference and nonconference football games in the fall or spring. The RMAC will not award a conference championship in football this school year and the NCAA Division II playoffs have been canceled.
Jackson said he pestered Co-Athletic Director Bryan Rooks and President Tim Foster to play in the fall and they agreed with the man who grew up playing football in Texas.
“People in Texas play football in spite of anything,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I’ve gotten into some knock-down, drag-out arguments, but we’ve been able to get it done for our seniors.”
The Mavericks open at home against Chadron State at noon on Oct. 10, then travel to Spearfish, South Dakota, to play Black Hills State on Oct. 17. South Dakota Mines comes to Grand Junction for a noon kickoff on Oct. 24 to wrap up the round-robin of RMAC teams.
Mesa’s final game so far is Nov. 21 at West Texas A&M, where the Mavericks will see their former head coach, Russ Martin, now the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the Buffs.
CMU is the only college in Colorado at any level planning to play football this fall.
The issue of whether fans will be allowed to attend home games is still being worked out between CMU and Mesa County Health Department officials; if Mesa County is granted another variance, it’s possible Stocker could be open at half capacity. Stocker Stadium seats roughly 8,000 people.
“If we can make it to October 10 and be the only college football game in this state, that’s big for our university,” Jackson said. “We’re going to try to put a great product out there.”
Teams can play 10 games this school year and still allow players to retain their current eligibility for the fall of 2021. Jackson said CMU won’t play a full slate, and he’s willing to play no more than two games in the spring. A couple of RMAC schools have indicated they will play spring football.
Teams must be tested for the coronavirus 72 hours before competition, and CMU will test in-season athletes weekly, so Jackson is reworking the practice schedule to accommodate testing days and plans to be back on the field again later this week.
Having games on the schedule gives Jackson one more carrot to dangle in front of his players to make sure they stay within campus rules to keep COVID-19 cases down. It’s more than that, though.
“Things getting played gives our kids a lot of hope and will help our university as far as these college kids and the virus. It gives them something to look forward to,” Jackson said.
“That was the challenge. I was brutally honest with our administration, we need something to hope for. There’s too much going on now not to have any hope.”