Kats eye continued dominance in BOTPW

Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler hoists the Battle of the Piney Woods trophy after defeating Stephen F. Austin 63-28 in 2017.

Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler recently joined myself and KSAM 101.7 sports director Rob Hipp on the inaugural episode of Huntsville Sports Weekly to discuss an array of topics surrounding the 2020 college football season.

Keeler talks about the possibility of adding an FBS opponent to the Bearkats’ schedule, safety precautions for training camp and how the Battle of the Piney Woods could look this year.

Below is a glimpse into the conversation, which can be viewed in its entirety at itemonline.com/kats:

Criswell: One of the things we're all still waiting to see is how the early-season schedule is going to shape up. You have a potential game to fill ... how important is it to have this opportunity to have a game against an FBS school to make up for some of those (financial) shortfalls throughout the year?

Keeler: We're looking at Houston, Tulane and TCU right now, but quite honestly, a lot of the big FBS programs are moving to conference-only play. If they move to conference-only play with the Power Five, and then the Group of Five might follow suit, then all of a sudden all the money games that the rest of the conference had this year go away — and could change a little bit of what the operation might be for this season. We're also waiting on a determination from the NCAA on if there is going to be a championship this year. That's something that nobody knows either.

We might find out on Aug. 4 that they're not going to have a national championship, and that would sort of change you're thinking a little bit too. There are a lot of moving parts. All of the decisions were going to be made by June 1. Then June 15. Oh, let's go July 1. Let's go July 15. We're running out of time. Everyone thought we'd have this thing figured out by now. We do not have this figured out yet.

I told our players we're opening Sept. 5. We get here at about 5:30 every morning and get them on the field for walkthroughs and conditioning, so it's a way we can lead into training camp. It's been going really well. I've been really happy with the progress and how hard our kids have been working, and how everything has been clicking during the circumstances we're under.

Hipp: I know this is looking a little further ahead, but you talked a little bit (at Southland Conference media day last week) about the Battle of the Piney Woods and if it's going to at NRG Stadium — possibly with an open roof. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Keeler: We've got a determination from the Texans that we can hold about 15,000 people. I think that would include sideline personnel, players, coaches, those types of things. Life has changed. The world as we know it is different than it was a year ago, so these are all the things we have to figure out. If we have fans in the stands, which I anticipate we will, how many fans are we going to be able to hold? The Texans have determined that they want 15,000 for a college event. So that's the kind of stuff we're working through right now.

A lot of teams are agreeing to contracts (for games) and then find out a few days later that it's going to be conference-only. I've told our guys that all we can control is what we can control, and what we can control is getting in shape, getting better and preparing for a Sept. 5 opener. Let me worry about all the other stuff. ... There's a lot of moving pieces and balls in the air, whatever term you want to use, and I think a lot of things that are going to happen that are out of our control when it comes to FBS programs.

There are still a lot of questions, and it's hard. When we're out there doing drills, it's hard not to breathe on each other. You saw what just happened with the Marlins. A couple guys didn't keep the integrity of the bubble and went out to a couple restaurants in Atlanta, and then all of a sudden there's like 18 of them now that have tested positive. That can happen anywhere, all it takes is one person letting their guard down.

I don't want to hear this, 'Oh yeah, 20-year-olds just get sniffles.' Some of our guys have had some pretty significant symptoms, and that made me very aware that this is not, 'They're 20-year-olds, they'll get over this.' We need to make sure we're looking out for our young men, because there are a lot of unknowns with this.