Brown trying to keep Tigers prepared amid uncertainty

Rick Peterson Jr.
Fort Hays State football coach Chris Brown sports an FHSU Tiger mask.

In a recent interview with The Hays Daily News, Fort Hays State football coach Chris Brown weighed in on the MIAA’s decision last week to delay the start of the fall sports season, with practices starting the week of Aug. 31 and fall competition not beginning until the week of Sept. 28.

Brown also talked about how his players are staying prepared and shared his takeaways from watching the Kansas Shrine Bowl on July 18.

Question: The MIAA recently announced that they were pushing back the start of the fall sports season. What did you make of that decision?

Answer: That they really want to try to have a season this fall, but it still comes down to the safety of the student-athletes and the fans and the coaches and all those involved. I think that’s most important thing, just making sure that we’re safe and that we’re taking this seriously and not trying to start a season and not all the sudden have it end right in the middle.

But I really think they’re trying to find ways to make sure this thing happens. We all want football to happen, we just got to make sure we do it the right way and the safe way.

Q: The players are so used to structure and routine. What’s your message to them with so much uncertainty out there?

A: It’s just life. Life’s full of adversity. There’s ups and there’s downs. There’s things that you can control and things that you can’t control. Just trying to keep them positive, just keep working. Whether they play this fall or play this spring, there’s still work to be done, there’s still opportunities to make themselves better, not just as players but as people and students.

Just keep moving forward. Stay to the grind. Just try to keep making yourself a better person, a better football player and better student, and that’s what you got to worry about, whether we’re playing or not. You just got to prepare like we’re playing and get yourself ready because there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Q: Do you feel like the guys have been able to stay in shape and stay ready?

A: They have. The players have to call the workouts. And they’ve called workouts at least three or four times a week, which allowed us coaches to be there as well. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s all amped up and about getting ready to go. Really high intensity. We’ve really just been kind of able to take a step back and just kind of teach the kids the game of football, the techniques and fundamentals that are going to make them successful.

It’s more of a relaxed atmosphere and getting to know the kids a little better. I’ve really enjoyed it. You see the kids, they’re out there competing, they’re getting after it, they’re calling the workouts, they’re having fun, they’re learning. We want to get out and go play, but I think it has brought us closer as a team and closer as a family.

Q: Some coaches feel that the conference should go ahead and move fall sports to the spring. Would you be in favor of that?

A: What I don’t want to happen is for this thing to get started, then all the sudden we’re put to a halt and we’re not playing anymore. I don’t think that’s fair to the kids, I don’t think that’s fair to the coaches or to our administration or even the fans.

To me, if we have a solid plan that we can play in the fall and make it safe for everybody, then let’s do it. But if there’s not a solid plan in place, I think push it to the spring. Hopefully by then there’s some sort of vaccine so we can keep people safe and get more people in the stands. I know that’s not going to be fun for the fall because there won’t be any (MIAA sports) going on at all, but if its for the safety of the kids and the fans and everybody else, I think it’d be best to push it to the spring.

Q: There’s been talk about trying to get some games in during the fall and finishing up in the spring. What are your thoughts on that?

A: Are we going to get into Week 2 and now we’re already cut off, and now we’re going to come back in the spring to finish up the season? I think that’s just too up and down for kids, trying to keep them in shape with holidays as well — Thanksgiving, Christmas and all those different things going on as well. Kids have to go home and do different things. Are they going to be allowed to (go home)? With all the quarantine stuff going on and the states that are hot spots and the things going on, how are you going to keep your team healthy and keep them safe? I think the decision needs to be its all in the fall or all in the spring.

To me, really the safe bet right now is pushing it to the spring, just to make sure we get everything right and give these kids the opportunity to play.

Q: If the MIAA was to play a shortened season in the fall, you would lose games against Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri. Keeping everything in perspective, how disappointing would that be?

A: You want to play those teams. You want to play every single team, that’s just the game of football. I don’t want to be cut short in a season where you only have four or five games and that’s it. That’s no fair to our student athletes and it’s not fair to our community. Whether it’s a championship season or not, I want to play Northwest every single year just to see where we’re at. Are we still one of the top teams in our conference? Mo West is the same way. They’re always one of the top teams in the conference. You want to play those guys. You want to compete each week and play the best competition.

Taking those games off your schedule, you just don’t know where you’re at. But we’re still playing great teams like Washburn, Emporia and Pitt and teams like that that are very competitive in our conference, like Central Oklahoma. But you always want to play Northwest, you always want to play Central Missouri and Mo West. Those are the teams you want to play to see where you’re program’s at.

Q: In Ellis County, there has been a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. How concerning is that?

A: Very ... You know, it’s scary. There’s two sides to every story, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I want to take this very serious. I care about the people in this community. I care about my family, I care about my players and Fort Hays State, and I just want everybody to be safe and healthy. Don’t let it be too late, because if it’s too late who knows where this thing is going to end up going to.

I don’t want to have any more setbacks than what we’ve had already, whether it’s football or economy or kids going to school. It’s a scary time. I just think we need to take this thing serious and make sure we do everything the right way and be patient. We’ve got to find a plan to make sure everybody stays safe and everybody stays healthy. You’re going to get the rising numbers with people being impatient and people wanting to get out. You had fourth of July, you had Memorial Day weekend, you had all those gatherings and churches opened up and things like that. It’s part of life. I want to get out there too and get back to normal life, but right now we just can’t. I just want to be safe and make sure our community is safe. I want the numbers to go down. If the numbers go down, hopefully we can turn everything back to normal.

Q: You watched the Kansas Shrine Bowl in Topeka and got a chance to see your son (Hayden Brown) and several other future Tigers play. What were you thoughts on the game?

A: It was a good sight to see, seeing those kids out there compete and get after it.

I know there’s talk out there: ‘Why can’t we play football? The Shrine Bowl got it done.’ Well, it’s pretty easy when you take temperature checks throughout the week and you got the kids quarantined for seven days in a hotel room and nobody can see them but (the other players and coaches).

It’s a little different thing than just regular college football, right? College football, kids are coming back to school. There’s going to be other students around. These kids were just in a hotel by themselves and with their coaches.

But it was a great experience for those kids. I think it was ran very well. I thought they did a great job with the temperature checks as people came in. I thought they did a good job with the social distancing in the stands and making people wear masks.

Just watching those kids and seeing the excitement on their faces and being able to step back on the field, you know, it touches your heart. Just seeing how much they love the game. Talking to my son, Hayden, he got so close with not just those guys that are going to be here at Fort Hays State, but with the whole West team. He couldn’t believe how close he got with that group of guys in so short of time. That’s important, those guys will have that relationship forever.

They got to play the game, and the West side won, which is good for my family. But it was just an awesome atmosphere and just an awesome experience for those kids. It was awesome to see football again.