Mary Hardin-Baylor’s football field houses and adjacent practice fields — usually bustling with activity this time of year — are eerily quiet. The clanging of weights and the sounds of spring drills are replaced by silence as the school waits out the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s the most unprecedented thing I’ve ever been through,” Crusaders football coach Pete Fredenburg said. “It’s unreal.”
All of UMHB’s workout facilities are closed and classes still haven’t resumed in a traditional setting since letting out March 6 for spring break. Students are doing coursework online, and the football program is running out of time to get in its 16 days of allowable spring training.
“We had finished most of our recruiting, by and large, but we were hoping to go into our spring training. Now we’ve moved that back,” Fredenburg said. “If school starts back on (April 6), we’ll be able to get in about 12 of the 16 days.”
When the season ended back in December, Fredenburg said the spring training days also would be used to evaluate the progress of Aaron Sims — a speedy receiver and kick returner who was a key part of UMHB’s 2018 national championship run but missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.
But even if the Crusaders can’t get on the field for any spring training days in the coming weeks, the coach is pleased with Sims’ recovery.
“Aaron is doing remarkably well. He was running, not full-speed, but he was running before spring break,” he said. “We feel like he’s ahead of schedule.”
It’s difficult to tell what kind of effect the shutdown will have on a Crusaders program that appeared in the NCAA Division III national championship game three times — winning twice — over the last four seasons, and how next year’s DIII championships for all sports will be affected.
A portion of the money generated by the Division I men’s basketball tournament pays for all of the DIII championship events. But with the cancellation of this year’s NCAA Tournament, that revenue stream will likely be narrowed.
“You worry about the Division III championships,” Fredenburg said. “You just have to be patient and see how it works itself out.
“There’s so many unknowns in this. We’re talking to and texting and messaging our players every day to make sure they’re staying on top of their online school work, but you wonder about how they are taking care of themselves. We’re limited in scope as far as what we can give them for voluntary workouts, and it’s difficult for them to find a weight room.”
The Crusaders are in the process of searching for a new offensive line coach after Dustin Washburn was hired as the offensive coordinator at Lake Belton High School. Fredenburg met with a candidate Monday and had another interview scheduled for Tuesday before it was scrapped because of Bell County’s shelter-in-place order that runs through April 3.
“We have plenty of time to find an offensive line coach,” Fredenburg said. “We’ve got nothing but time because we’ll stay home, I guess, until April 3.”