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Syracuse's Boeheim Calls for Contact Tracing Changes

Paul Steinbach

After his team squeaked by with a one-point victory in its season-opener Friday, Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim criticized the unclear decision-making process that led to his program taking a two-week pause and then playing one day after breaking quarantine.

Boeheim, who tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-November, pointed to Gonzaga, which played a game earlier on Friday despite having one player test positive. Only his roommate, Boeheim said, was put into quarantine while the rest of the group didn't miss a beat.

As reported by Cuse NationBoeheim took "100 percent" responsibility for putting his players in the difficult position of facing a Bryant team that brought quickness, tempo and varying schemes. He said Syracuse did not practice for two full weeks, implying that they were kept off the court by the Atlantic Coast Conference's policy requiring anyone identified through Covid-19 contact tracing to quarantine for 14 days. However, it's unclear exactly who made the call for the program to go on pause, as the conference policy indicates players must be within 6 feet of a positive tester for at least 15 minutes to trip the contact tracing threshold. SU athletic director John Wildhack spoke to the quarantine last Tuesday and said the school is working closely with the Onondaga County Health Department.

Boeheim reiterated on Friday that his players only have 8 to 10 minutes of close contact per session, according to the chip-based technology the program has used during the preseason. And he only spends 90 seconds in close contact with players.

Twelve days before the opener, Boeheim announced that he and another member of the program — later identified as a player — had tested positive for COVID-19. Boeheim told multiple media outlets early this week that his team would be ready for Bryant. However, the team began to visibly tire midway through the first half.

Midway through his postgame press conference, Boeheim turned his attention toward the bigger picture: college basketball's attempt to play a season during a pandemic. "It's foolish what we're doing," Boeheim said, referring ot current contact tracing policy. "We're just saying, 'If one guy tests positive, you can't play. The whole team can't play.'"

Boeheim said college football programs haven't shut down after one or two positive test results. It's reasonable to draw a line in the sand somewhere to shut down a program — maybe three positives, Boeheim posited — but he emphasized that this shouldn't happen for such a small exposure. 

And the ramifications if it happens again, potentially during conference play, would be far more significant from a basketball perspective.

"We've got to do something about this now or the season will be destroyed," Boeheim said. "Because if you have your team sit for 14 days and you can't practice, then you can't play. You can't come off that and play Virginia, Duke or North Carolina. You would need seven or eight days to even come close to being ready."

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