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Jeff Choate has significantly more time at home these days.

The Montana State head coach has talked to family more. He’s gaining a better understanding of technology. Football games are far from the forefront of his mind at the moment.

With the intent of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the Big Sky Conference canceled all competitions and activities like workouts and practices until at least May 15. MSU also canceled events through April, including the groundbreaking ceremony for the $18 million Bobcat Athletics Complex originally slated for this week and the football program’s Sonny Holland Classic spring scrimmage scheduled for mid-April.

Choate, though, isn’t heartbroken about MSU’s spring practices, which were set to begin next week, being called off. In an interview with the Chronicle, he reiterated that he feels spring ball is overvalued, and his top priority usually is the health of players. He isn’t concerned about the lack of practices.

“When there’s difficult times, it makes us all realize what’s really important,” Choate said. “At the end of the day, whether we have spring ball or not, is not that important. We’ll adjust just like everybody else will during this time. I hope that we’re getting back to some normalcy.

“I think it will be a great healing thing for our entire country when we do get an opportunity to come back together as Bobcat nation and all those other people around the world and around the nation that look forward to coming together and watching some college football on a Saturday afternoon. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.”

Choate believes spring practices have little impact on the result of a season. The major thing the Bobcats are missing is a chance to evaluate the battle for the starting quarterback role. Tucker Rovig and Casey Bauman, who both started games last season, return, and North Carolina State transfer Matthew McKay is hoping to challenge for playing time.

But, as was the case last season, Choate puts more stock into summer workouts anyway. With little emphasis on training this time of year, the Bobcats have made at least the second round of the FCS playoffs the past two seasons, including a run to the semifinals in 2019 for the first time in 35 years.

But Choate stressed he wants to be diligent and monitor his players’ physical and academic well-being during the coronavirus pandemic. He feels that will be easier because of his staff.

The coaches have held regular web-based meetings, as part of Choate’s effort to maintain regularity. That’s been especially key for the Bobcats head coach.

Choate’s original plan was to ease his players from their winter training program to light workouts then have them practice five days a week for three weeks for the spring and then to take more time off. By compacting more training into a smaller time window, he hoped to learn who was ready to make steps of improvement for the 2020 season.

But that’s no longer possible. Choate is dealing with players who remained in Bozeman and some who returned to their families. No matter where they are, he stressed establishing daily routines from home. That still includes position meetings and setting aside time for online classes, time to work out and “mental health time” like walks, cooking or reading to help them decompress.

Choate said head strength and conditioning coach Alex Willcox established workout regimens for his players, whether they have weights or not, in order to keep in shape. Choate often preaches about accountability, and that will be especially important when they have to train and study on their own.

“This is a true testament to accountability,” Choate said. “Are you doing your workouts? Are you doing your academics? Are you taking care of yourself?”

To Choate, football tasks seem like miniscule challenges compared to the coronavirus pandemic.

He often emphasizes to his players to take care of their 1/11th. That means all 11 players on the football field at any one point should worry about their sole responsibilities and not the overall landscape of the game. If they execute their own jobs, team success should follow.

Choate views everyone staying home as an example of that. If people, including his team, are out in social places less, he hopes that stops the spread of the coronavirus and alleviates the strain on local health-care providers. That way sports resume as soon as possible.

“One of the things I tell our guys: If you don’t sacrifice now as an individual, you may not get to play football in the fall of 2020,” Choate said. “When so much of their personal identity is wrapped into who they are as football players, that’s one way you can hit them in between the eyes and say, ‘Hey, we need to pay attention.’”

Choate is optimistic his players will return to training by mid-May or early June. If football is back this fall, Choate hopes no one takes it for granted.

“What it looks like going forward, who knows?” Choate said. “I think it’s important to keep things in perspective during this time.”

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.

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