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Power Five conference and NCAA Covid-19 testing standards memo still has gaps

A report from Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated almost requires more questions than it answers.

Defensive back Jaiden Lars-Woodbey of the Florida State Football Team speaks with the media before a unity walk on June 13, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Update 3:58 p.m. The NCAA has added their own set of standards called the Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition. It incorporates a lot of below, including the 72-hour window for testing before competition. Perhaps this is the most important part of the entire document, showing why football this fall will be so difficult.

NCAA

A memo from college football’s Power Five conferences (the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12) found its way into the hands of Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, and it outlines what we might see as some of the testing procedures required for teams that still intend to play FBS college football this fall.

The six-page document outlines weekly in-season testing requirements, response protocols for positive tests, contact-tracing plans and considerations for game cancellations. “This document is meant to guide institutions in the minimum necessary requirements needed to participate in athletics in the coming year,” the document reads.

College teams will be required to test football players within 72 hours of games using the standard PCR test. Game officials in football and basketball should also be tested weekly, because of their close contact with athletes, the document says. The document, however, does not require tests for coaches, though staff members must wear a mask on the sideline if they are not tested in the same way athletes are. As for other high-risk sports, athletes should be tested within 72 hours of the first game of a week’s set of games.

So we’re not going to test coaches? The same men that are revered and paid six-and-seven-figures to get in the face and yell at unpaid players to “motivate” them? Is this for real?

American Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, leader of a league that’s not in the Power Five but the closest one to it, gives the reasoning behind a 72-hour window for testing.

In most sports leagues around the world such as the Bundesliga or English Premier League, coaches are both tested (while being quarantined) and are asked to wear masks during games. A head coach can take his off when coaching his team from the technical area, but that’s it. And the spread of the virus in Europe is a fraction of what it is in the United States presently. How is this going to work exactly?

Those who test positive must isolate for at least 10 days from their onset of symptoms/positive test and until they’ve gone at least three days without symptoms, which the document defines as “resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement of respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath).” Those found to have had “high risk” contact with people who have tested positive will quarantine for 14 days. This 14-day quarantine is mandatory. Even if those quarantined test negative for the virus, they must still complete the 14 days without competition—a significant restriction that could knock out large swaths of a football team. “Institutions may consider testing contacts during quarantine if the local testing supply is adequate, however this does not shorten or remove the need for a 14 day quarantine period,” the document says.

So if you test positive, you’ve got to quarantine for 10 days. But if you talk to someone with the virus, you have to quarantine for 14 days. Got it. Makes sense.

So one offensive lineman tests positive after a position meeting in a room without much outside air being let in, does that mean the entire unit must quarantine? And wouldn’t that require the rescheduling or forfeiture of a game? Positive tests are absolutely going to happen, and the nature of football both on-and-off the field is that people are going to interact in a close environment.

At least Aresco is being somewhat realistic about these plans coming to execution.

But as we learn more about the virus, and the inability of college campuses to handle it, playing college football beginning in September seems more and more like a pipe dream.