McCaffery navigates complexities of pandemic

The last six months have been anything but normal for Fran McCaffery, but that hasn’t stopped him from leading his team as best he can.

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Nichole Harris

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery draws up plays during a timeout during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Penn State on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 77-68.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor


For the last 38 years, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery has been coaching collegiate basketball in some form or fashion. Despite all his experience as both an assistant and a head coach with various teams, nothing could’ve prepared McCaffery for this year.

Back in March, McCaffery’s Iowa team lost out on its opportunities to compete in both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. In the ensuing months, things didn’t get much better for McCaffery or his team.

Multiple Hawkeyes have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the offseason. Iowa basketball even paused its workouts for 14 days in July to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“We got from point A to point B without a blueprint,” McCaffery said. “We just kind of dealt with it as it happened. We did have multiple players get COVID. We followed the protocols at that time.”

According to McCaffery, all of his student-athletes did make a full recovery following their respective infections. However, the head Hawkeye did note that the virus seemed to affect all of his players differently.

“I’m not going to get into names and numbers,” McCaffery said. “It was a broad range of symptoms, how they felt. Some were sicker than others. We experienced it all. We had two situations where they tested positive and they had no symptoms at all, they felt great. We had others where it was taste and smell, some were sick. As you would expect, when you’re sick, you’re sick. You got a fever, aches and pains, you’ve got a sore throat. That’s the weird thing about this, it affected people differently, and some recovered quicker than others. Some of these guys are in their twenties or their teens, so it happened pretty quickly in terms of their recovery.”

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Currently, McCaffery’s Hawkeyes are tested once a week for COVID-19. However, that will change as soon as the Big Ten Conference’s daily testing protocols are implemented.

“We’re presently testing once a week with the PCR test,” McCaffery said. “We will start testing once a day. I don’t know that the date has been set, but I suspect it will be around the first official day of practice, Oct. 14, but that has not been decided.”

Up until Oct. 14, the Hawkeyes will continue practice as mandated by the NCAA, working out for no more than 12 hours per week, mixing in a mandatory two days off.

On Sept. 16, the NCAA announced that the Division I men’s college basketball season could begin on Nov. 25, giving the Hawkeyes a little over thirty days of regular practices to prepare for the season.

“The only thing I can say unequivocally is that we’re going to play 27 games,” McCaffery said. “We’ll have our own [multi-team event] because if we didn’t we’d only be able to play 25 [games]. I feel pretty good about the [Big Ten-ACC Challenge]. I feel pretty good about Iowa State. There’s other discussions going on with the rest of the schedule, some at the league level, some at the local level. To be truthful, we’re looking at a lot of different options. . . We feel good about these games, but nothing is set yet.”

McCaffery went on to note that meetings regarding the schedule are ongoing because many moving parts are involved in piecing the schedule together – especially in terms of event logistics, whether they be bubble style, regular home-away games, or tournament-based contests.

One thing McCaffery is certain of, is that things have been different for the last few months and will continue to be unique going forward.

“Obviously it’s unprecedented times for all of us, no matter what business you’re in” McCaffery said. “What you try to do is communicate with people that can maybe help provide some valuable advice or information, and then make the best decisions you can with the information available.”

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