WILBERFORCE — First-year Central State University football coach Bobby Rome II says he’ll learn a lot about his 2020 football team, through how they handle adversity and how they take care of themselves, as the COVID-19 Coronavirus prevents him from working directly with them.
CSU officially stopped its athletic programs on March 12, to adhere to NCAA guidelines in regard to dealing with the Coronavirus. Rome had a couple days to get to know his team, but was unable to spend much direct time with them.
Now he and coaches around the country are not permitted to come in contact with their athletes.
Most all of the student-athletes are taking their classes online from their homes. Rome says how the athletes handle the time away from school will be crucial.
“I can’t make them workout, I can’t make them do anything right now, so I’ve gotta trust that they’re doing those things and taking care of themselves on their own,” Rome said. “Anybody can do the job in front of the coach. It’s what you do when the coach isn’t around. Those are the type of guys who we want at Central State. So they’ll be put to the test this semester.”
For most coaches who are working their first year with a team, the idea of being unable to have contact with a team you’re not quite familiar with might seem quite daunting. This is nothing for Rome, who coached a club program in Vladivostok, Russia and pretty much built the team from scratch.
“I think that experience helped me out tremendously. Coming into Vladivostok, I had nothing. No roster, no athletic site. Nothing. They just gave me two footballs and said ‘Get to work!’
“Here it’s a lot different. I’ve got talented players, I’ve got a lot more to work with. I would say that situation in particular definitely prepared me for a situation like this, where I’m coming to Central State. I never lived in Ohio. It’s like walking into Russia for the first time. I knew how important it was then to make sure I was helping those young men. Same deal here. I want to make sure I can back these young men every way that I can.”
Asked to describe the challenges he’s facing in molding a team he can’t see, Rome said the health of his players remains foremost on his mind.
“First, it’s to make sure that all my players stay healthy. I want to make sure that they come through this Coronavirus thing strong. That’s the first and foremost thing. I want to make sure that they’re healthy and that we’re not passing this virus around, that we’re doing our part.”
During the time away from the team, Rome said he’s been working to find and recruit Ohio athletes who are still available.
“I know we’re going to attack the state of Ohio pretty hard, and try and see what we can scoop up in the state of Ohio. I would say there is plenty of opportunity here at Central State. We have a competition at every single position, and we want to see if we can find the best that’s still available in the state of Ohio to see whether we can turn this football program around.”
Barring any further delays due to the virus, Central State is tentatively scheduled to begin its season against Howard University, Sept. 6 in the Black College Hall of Fame game, in Canton.