Control what you can: Lewis talks about Kent State football amid coronavirus cancellation

Kent State football coach Sean Lewis.

Ben Pagani, TV2 Sports

Sean Lewis, Kent State’s football coach, is sticking to a simple idea: control what he can control.

Three days after the Mid-American Conference (MAC) postponed its fall season, Lewis spoke to the media during a press conference hosted by Kent State Athletics via Zoom and answered some of the biggest questions regarding all college athletes—especially those in the MAC—in the age of COVID-19.

“Right now what we think we can control is eligibility,” Lewis said. “The NCAA set a precedent with the spring athletes being granted a blanket waiver of eligibility and we expect the same. I would fully support that.”

According to the NCAA guidelines, student athletes have up to six total years of eligibility, allowing redshirts a fifth season and, on a strict basis, allowing a sixth season for graduate students. If the NCAA keeps the same policy it used in the spring, students athletes who are entering their final year of eligibility could play through the end of the 2021 fall season.

This would affect players like redshirt senior Woody Barrett, who started at quarterback for the Flashes in 2018 before being moved to back up standout senior Dustin Crum in 2019. If there is no college football until 2021, Barrett could return.

For now, the team waits. 

Lewis said he expects the MAC to set safety guidelines for future practices later this week.

“Besides what the conference will lay out, our goal has always been to put our kids safety, their mental, emotional and physical health, as our top priority,” Lewis said.

Lewis also answered questions about his players’ attitudes during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am proud of our guys’ resilience since March,” Lewis said. “Our players have been first class, doing well in class in the spring and expressing mental toughness when we returned for football camp.”

Lewis was forced to cancel spring practice in March by the athletic department after he himself canceled the spring game. Since then, the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic led to the fall season’s cancellation, with hopes it can be played in the spring. 

Lewis said his players wanted to play football despite the pandemic and were willing to do anything to get on the field this fall.

“Our guys really made the personal self-sacrifice to do all they could and make things happen,” Lewis said. “All the way until the very end on Saturday when everything came to a head, our kids and our staff have been unbelievable, and that’s what we’re going to strive to do going forward.”

Lewis said he doesn’t want his team to waste time while waiting for the upcoming season and that his team is still studying plays. 

“Again, it has been my top priority as a coach since I got here to control what we can control with this football team,” Lewis said. “My guys know what they can do to set themselves up for success in the coming year.”

Last year, the Flashes found success in becoming the first team in school history to win a bowl game by defeating Utah State 51-41 in the Frisco Bowl. 

“We were riding that momentum for sure, and that’s going to continue to remind our team of what can be achieved,” Lewis said. “Now we have to look a little beyond that and find ourselves within this unique opportunity and create a new identity for this program, one that can navigate these waters of uncertainty in the world that we are all finding ourselves in.”