Virginia Tech Hokies

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NC State parents able to attend home game

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State University said Friday it has received permission from the state to allow up to 350 fans to attend its Saturday home football game against Wake Forest University.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the gathering limit to The Associated Press on Friday morning.

“We received word that we can have 350 in attendance tomorrow rather than 50,” said Fred Demarest, spokesman for N.C. State’s athletics department. “We will be giving 250 to our player parents and providing 100 for Wake Forest.”

An executive order from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper presently limits outdoor gatherings to 50 people. The public health department said it would allow two family members per player to attend live football games up to 350 people as long as the college follows certain health protocols.

“We understand that parents and close family members are accustomed to, and look forward to seeing their athletes play games and that not being there is incredibly difficult,” the health department told the AP.

Wake Forest’s football coach, Dave Clawson, thanked the health department and N.C. State for allowing his team’s parents to attend.

“Our program is grateful for the decision from the department of North Carolina Health and Human Services to allow 350 fans at the game tomorrow night and next week,” Clawson said in a statement. “We are appreciative of NC State sharing that allotment with us so that we can allocate tickets to our student-athletes families.”

The updated guidance from North Carolina’s public health department requires fans to wear masks and practice social distancing. It also prohibits schools from offering alcohol and concession sales.

“If the above criteria is met, DHHS supports NC colleges and universities including 2 family member spectators per athlete for up to 350 total per event,” the department said.

Other colleges look forward to having fans in person.

North Carolina team spokesman Jeremy Sharpe said the school has informed its players that “moving forward, they will all have access to a minimum of two tickets for their families.”

UNC was scheduled to host UNC-Charlotte on Saturday, but the game was canceled after a number of Charlotte players were placed in quarantine. North Carolina’s next home game is scheduled for Oct. 10 against Virginia Tech.

East Carolina, which will host the Central Florida on Sept. 26, said in a statement it plans to utilize “all that is permitted” for families to attend the football games.

But not all schools are planning to allow fans into the games.

Duke won’t allow parents to attend Saturday’s home game against Boston College. Art Chase, a spokesman for Duke athletics, said the school would go forward with no fans in attendance.

COVID-19 knocks out Virginia-Virginia Tech opener

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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The pandemic disrupted college sports again Saturday, with Virginia and Virginia Tech postponing their Sept. 19 football opener because of COVID-19 issues at Virginia Tech.

The schools said this was a mutual agreement. No makeup date was announced for the game that had been set for Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech also will not hold football practice for four days.

The postponement is the second for the Hokies since the Atlantic Coast Conference released a revised schedule. Their original opening game, slated for Sept. 12 against North Carolina State, was pushed back two weeks after a COVID-19 outbreak at N.C. State.

Virginia, suddenly faced with not opening its season until Oct. 3 at No. 1 Clemson, moved its home game against Duke to Sept. 26. The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 14.

It was just one of a series of maneuvers in a season that likely will require many more.

Since the Hokies’ original opener was postponed Aug. 26 because of outbreaks upending the Wolfpack’s preparation, there have been more than a dozen FBS games postponed because of issues with COVID-19. Three Big 12 teams scheduled to open this weekend, including No. 15 Oklahoma State, had their games postponed.

Also, BYU and Army agreed to postpone the Cougars’ visit to West Point, New York, on Sept. 19 after what BYU called “a small number” of positive test results and the resultant contact tracing restrictions. The schools said they hope to be able to reschedule.

On Saturday, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he had unidentified five starters out of practice this week because of COVID-19-related issues. A total of 10 players are sidelined from practice. No. 11 Auburn opens Sept. 26 against Kentucky.

A day earlier, Memphis announced it had multiple positive tests within the football program and a “significant number of individuals” who had to be quarantined because of contact tracing. The Tigers’ game against Houston on Friday was eventually postponed, and the Cougars worked quickly to fill the void, scheduling a visit to Baylor on Sept. 19.

On its web page, Virginia Tech reported Friday it has had 219 positive tests for the coronavirus in the previous seven days, putting its total infections at 633 since testing began Aug. 3. The numbers have risen steadily since students returned Aug. 24.

The school has not been releasing athlete-specific results.

Virginia released its latest numbers for athletes and athletic staff on Saturday, saying it has had five positive tests since the last update on Sept. 4. The school said four of the five positives were from students who recently returned to campus and that the football program has not had any positive results since the first report on July 24.

“The safety as well as the physical and mental well-being of these young men and women entrusted to our care by their families remains our top priority,” Hokies athletic director Whit Babcock said in a statement.

“I know the virus has always been here, but the virus in full force finally got to southwest Virginia, and the timing is pretty poor for football,” Babcock said later on a Zoom call, noting that schools have closed locally for a few weeks.

He added: “We could have played last week and N.C. State could not and then this week it’s reversed roles.”

He declined to say how many football players were included in the positive tests, citing the school’s interpretation of privacy laws, but added it was a “significant number where your chief medical officer says it was not safe to play.”

On Twitter, some of Virginia’s coaches praised their players.

“It is really this simple… you either are committed to your team or you are not,” offensive line coach Garett Tujague tweeted. “There are those that can sacrifice for each other and then there are those that CAN NOT. The greatest thing is… You get to make that choice.”

Running backs coach Mark Atuaia noted the “grave sacrifices” by his players.

“My heart goes out to them because no one is giving merit to the disciple my young brothers have displayed since the pandemic hit,” he wrote. “My UVA young brothers are AMAZING!!!”

Conferences proceeding with a fall football season are requiring their schools to test athletes three times per week, and the ACC altered its schedule, pushing back its start date a week and its championship game, in anticipation of teams being unable to play because of the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says any person who spends at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person who is infected with COVID-19 is deemed a high-risk contact and requires a 14-day quarantine. High-risk contacts can also involve touching or being sneezed on or coughed upon by an infected person.

The NCAA adopted those standards in its return-to-play guidelines.

Baylor becomes 3rd Big 12 team to postpone opener after La Tech outbreak

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WACO, Texas — Baylor became the third Big 12 team forced to postpone its scheduled season opener this weekend after Louisiana Tech reported multiple positive COVID-19 tests Tuesday, less than two weeks after a hurricane affected its campus.

Louisiana Tech athletic director Tommy McClelland said Tuesday night that it wasn’t possible for the Bulldogs to play Saturday at Baylor because of the positive tests and contact tracing that would keep other players out the game.

The school didn’t provide any specific numbers, but said there was a spike in cases in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27 that impacted the campus in Ruston, Louisiana, which is more than 200 miles inland. McClelland the school had only one positive case in the three weeks before the current outbreak, an indication that protocols in place were working.

“With 95% of our city losing power for days – even up to a week in many areas – our student-athletes were forced to find places to stay and some even had family from south Louisiana that came northward to stay with them,” McClelland said. “So many things that we were able to control for the month of August became out of our control, and I think the numbers prove that it took its toll.”

No makeup date was announced.

The Louisiana Tech-Baylor game is the 10th Division I game that has been postponed because of the novel coronavirus, including Big 12 games SMU at TCU and Tulsa at Oklahoma State. The other postponed games are: North Carolina State at Virginia Tech, Temple at Navy, ULM at Troy, Marshall at East Carolina, and three Rice games – against Houston, Marshall and UAB.

TCU had to put off its scheduled opener Friday night after a virus outbreak last week among a cluster of Horned Frogs players and support staff. Oklahoma State has pushed back its opener against Tulsa a week to Sept. 19 after the Golden Hurricane were limited during preseason camp because of multiple positive tests.

Seven Big 12 teams are still scheduled to play Saturday.

“We are incredibly disappointed to announce the postponement of our upcoming football game against Louisiana Tech,” Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades said. “However, in the interest of the health and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff, we are confident in this unfortunate but necessary course of action. To the Baylor and Louisiana Tech student-athletes and communities, we share in your disappointment and look ahead to resuming play.”

The game was supposed to be the debut of new Baylor head coach Dave Aranda, the defensive coordinator last season for 15-0 national champion LSU. He replaced Matt Rhule, who was hired by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers after three seasons with the Bears.