Stanford coach David Shaw talked Wednesday about moving his football team to the Pacific Northwest. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
STANFORD — Santa Clara County’s tough new restrictions for sports teams have not stopped a Stanford football program with the motto “Relentlessly Adapt.”
Coach David Shaw said Wednesday his players wanted to continue the chaotic 2020 season despite the county’s order to ban practices and games through Dec. 21 because of surging COVID-19 case rates. The directive also requires a 14-day quarantine for anyone who enters the county from more than 150 miles away, meaning the Cardinal could not return to campus after a game Saturday in Seattle without shutting down for two weeks.
“Our student-athletes have worked so hard to get ready for the season, and they’ve only played three games and they want to play more,” Shaw said. “It’s up to us to keep them safe and allow them to prepare and play the game they love to play.”
The team flew into Seattle on Tuesday and will stay put through its game Saturday against the University of Washington. Then the Cardinal will relocate to Corvallis, Oregon, where it will face Oregon State on Dec. 12, a game originally scheduled for Stanford Stadium.
Stanford practiced at Washington’s facility on Tuesday because it could not find another option on short notice. But the team will practice at local high schools the remainder of the week.
“This pandemic is brutal,” Shaw said, who then praised the “dedication and effort of these young people – academically, athletically, socially.”
He said the players haven’t had “a single positive in months” showing that “our student-athletes are working very hard to play, and we have to work just as hard to give them that opportunity.”
Stanford tests its players eight to nine times per week and has not had a positive case since fall camp began in October, school officials have said.
Shaw said Stanford administers were told the night before Santa Clara’s announcement about the new restrictions. San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan criticized public health officials Sunday for not giving his team advance warning.
By Saturday, Stanford’s staff explored locations to practice, including in San Mateo County where the team started fall camp because of previous restrictions. Shaw said other options included moving to locations in Northern and Southern California as well as out of state.
Shaw said school leaders decided going to the Pacific Northwest was the best option. The presidents of Stanford and Washington spoke on Sunday before finalizing the arrangement, he added.
At the same time, the coach said they surveyed the players to ensure they wanted to continue. Shaw said only a few opted out, most notably backup fullback Jay Symonds. Those with season-ending injuries also stayed behind, though players who might be healthy enough to play later this season made the trip. Fall quarter classes at Stanford have ended, so missed class time was not a factor.
“Student-athletes are more resilient than we are,” Shaw said. “We have so many anxieties and worries. A high percentage of student-athletes will say, ‘I get to stay in a hotel and play football? OK, let’s go. You’ll feed me and let me lift weights and allow me to enjoy myself in my free time? OK, let’s do it.’”
Shaw said he believed the added expenses from the long trip will be covered by a combination of the school and the Pac-12.
Stanford’s season could continue after the Oregon State game. Pac-12 officials scheduled one more day of games on Dec. 19, but opponents have yet to be determined. Stanford could extend its stay in the Pacific Northwest by adding a game against Washington State, but Shaw said nothing has been decided other than that the Dec. 19 game cannot be held in Santa Clara County.
Stanford’s home game against Washington State on Nov. 21 was canceled when the Cougars did not have enough scholarship players to participate because of COVID-19-related issues. As it turns out, that would have been Stanford’s final home game of the season. Stanford and San Jose State are currently the only FBS programs in the country not able to practice or play in their own facilities.
“No matter how difficult the decision you have, once you make a decision you go forward with enthusiasm and do it to the best of your ability and be able to look back and say we did the best we could through difficult circumstances,” Shaw said.