If things went according to plan, USF men’s soccer would probably be running drills, testing new formations and studying film from its exhibition match against Valur Fótbolti, which would have been played last Saturday.
Instead, head coach Bob Butehorn and the Bulls are spending their time away from the field due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Butehorn’s background on a Zoom video conference call with The Oracle was a lush, green field enclosed by a white picket fence. A long, gray barn sat by a cluster of oak trees on the edge of the fence.
And, no it wasn’t one of the preselected virtual backgrounds.
“My daughter grew up riding horses and she competed at the University of South Carolina on the equestrian team at the Division I and actually won a national championship,” Butehorn said. “We just came up because she had a friend up here and she just wanted to get on the horse.”
Temporarily away from his office overlooking Corbett Stadium, Butehorn found solace and time to spend with his family just over an hour away from the USF campus.
“There’s nobody here, so we don’t deal with any humans,” he said. “Gave me some time to be with her [Butehorn’s daughter], so we’re just up here in Ocala enjoying a little bit of quiet time and peaceful time with some horses.”
Athletes and coaches left without work as a result of the pandemic have to find new ways to fill time. Other than spending time on horse ranches, projects around the house have kept Butehorn rolling.
“I’m a coach, but I’m also a builder, and I’ve realized that over my time, well, my wife reminded me of that,” he said. “I take on projects and tackle things that challenge me mentally and physically, and I think that’s what kind of keeps me sane in these times where we don’t have the opportunity to coach.
“I’ve taken on numerous projects at my house, just with the mindset of, ‘I’m going to try to tackle something I can build and create and keep my mind sharp.’”
Coaching goes hand in hand with crafting, and Butehorn has carried over his coaching philosophy to his time away from the field.
“The teaching still happens, whether I talk to the guys on a regular basis or my staff and I are constantly inventing and deciding on ways to improve the team for next year,” he said. “Now it gives us a chance to maybe take a little breath and really focus on maybe the finite details of each individual and also ourselves and build for the future.”
Soccer in a typical fashion this year is not guaranteed, as the pandemic has yet to be contained in the U.S. to a capacity that would allow sports to resume normally.
Any talk of changes to the season at this point would be to discuss alternatives in order to be prepared for an effect, considering the season is still four months away.
“I have a call today [Thursday] as a national chair for our conference just to kind of … put the possible scenarios in place and really just discuss what could and may happen,” Butehorn said.
Soccer wouldn’t be the only sport affected. Fall sports as a whole could be delayed or even canceled outright, which means the college football season could potentially be in jeopardy as well.
Fans and media alike have pondered the idea of no college football or a modified version of it this season. For many schools and conferences, football is the moneymaker, and a lack of it — or even a new format — could drastically impact sports that don’t bring in as much money.
The current NCAA model doesn’t bode well for sports that don’t bring in large revenues, and unprecedented events like the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the issue, according to Butehorn.
“It’s a good time to reflect on how this business model is built,” he said. “If one sport dictates everything, I don’t think that’s an effective or efficient model.
“One component to a whole system can’t be the thing that pulls it apart.”
But the season is still a go as it currently stands, which means the Bulls have to be prepared for when things return to some sort of normal.
For now, it’s not quite business as usual, but Butehorn is impressed with the way his team’s discipline has carried over off the field.
“I commend the guys for what they have done, the discipline they’ve shown,” he said. “The guys had an opportunity to go on spring break, and every one of my guys decided not to go for the safety of not only themselves but just the uncertainty of the days ahead.”
Even with things hanging in the balance, the Bulls persist and Butehorn is confident his team will be ready for the day soccer eventually returns.
“I have a really good staff that has taken each step to prepare these kids in the right way, whether it’s physically, mentally and just getting them as ready as they possibly can for whatever is ahead of us.”
For the full conversation with Bob Butehorn, watch The Oracle Sports Podcast with Brian Hattab and Nolan Brown, which premieres later this week.