College Football Practices Adapt, Pause Amid Positives

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On the cusp of a contracted college football season, anticipation for the sport's return should be running at a fever pitch against the bleak backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

But enthusiasm can't help but be tempered this week amid reports of teams struggling to keep the virus under wraps.

As reported by ESPN, Texas Tech continues to practice as it deals with 21 active cases of COVID-19 within its football program. Those individuals — 20 players and one coach who is not a full-time staff member — are currently in isolation.

When asked about the decision to continue practicing despite the number of positives, Wells said he felt comfortable with how many players he had available that were unaffected.

At the University of Oklahoma, meanwhile, football coach Lincoln Riley and his staff had to scramble last week after a round of COVID-19 tests led to multiple players being quarantined and held out of practice, according to USA Today.

"We lose all but one person at a position group — a major position group on the field — and we have to practice that day with a position where we had multiple players on the field at one time and we had one player there," Riley said, pointing an Aug. 17 round of testing that produced five positive results. That data was released Monday, and put the total active cases within the OU football program at 17, though Riley said Tuesday that "eight or nine" of those players were back with the team.

Riley was asked Tuesday if it's possible players will be counted on to play more than one position. "For us, it's been a call to every player on our roster that you've got to be willing to do whatever's called," he said. "Certainly it's on us to have a plan. I don't know that you can plan for all the scenarios because it can just go so deep right now, but I think you have a plan to cover as much of it as you can and we've certainly been working through it."

Both schools compete in the Big 12, one of three Power 5 conferences along with the SEC and ACC that opted to continue toward a fall football season.

On Monday, ACC member North Carolina State announced 22 new positive tests within the athletic department and that all sports activities had been put on pause, as reported by NBC affiliate WRAL in Raleigh. 

NC State has identified seven new virus clusters — defined as five or more cases in close proximity — with three discovered in residence halls on the main campus and four found in off-campus apartment complexes. One of the clusters the school identified was at the Wolf Village student apartment complex on campus, which is where the freshmen on the football team are required to live.

In all, the athletic department has administered 2,053 tests with 30 total positives, according to WRAL. On Monday, a letter was sent to NC State season ticket holders saying that tickets were suspended for the 2020 football season.

Based on the ACC’s COVID-19 protocols regarding contact tracing, the conference might have to move NC State’s Sept. 12 season opener at Virginia Tech to Sept. 26. That could mean the Wolfpack would instead open the season a week later — Sept. 19 at home against Wake Forest.

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