ACC commissioner says he expects football to be played despite recent outbreaks
|Saturday, August 22, 2020, 8:01 AM- -|
The Big Ten tried to be first in making decisions regarding the fall sports seasons and hoped the rest of the leagues would follow. The SEC made its own decision and let everyone know it would plow on alone. The Pac-12 waited and the Big 12 waited, while the ACC took its time and made a decision based on the recommendations of medical personnel.
The Power Five conferences don’t have a commissioner leading the way, leaving conferences to make their own decisions regarding the safety of student-athletes and coaches and the ability to play sports this fall as the nation comes to grips with COVID-19.
The Pac-12 and Big Ten each decided to not play football this fall and said their decisions were based on the medical advice they were given. The other three Power Five conferences – the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 – said their medical professionals have all said it was safe to play.
ACC commissioner John Swofford was asked about that on “Packer And Durham” on Friday morning, and Swofford said there hasn’t been a consistent opinion regarding what is safe and what isn’t when it comes to the virus.
“There’s a certain lack of consistency, as to what we hear from the medical profession and I think the fact that goes with that is that there are unknowns, certainly for the layman, but also for those in the medical profession,” Swofford said. “The other thing that goes with it is it shows the medical people can look at the same information and interpret it differently, and feel differently about your ability to mitigate it, in terms of playing sports and doing it safely. That’s a real part of the challenge.
“We’ve been extremely pleased with our medical group that was put together months ago with representatives from each of the 15 institutions, as well as the doctors outside of that group that they have brought in as consultants in giving advice to our presidents, to our athletic directors.”
UNC has moved in-person classes to online after a recent outbreak, and Notre Dame and UNC suspended all athletic activities after clusters of outbreaks. Swofford said that was expected and that there would be challenges ahead.
"I think all of us involved, looking ahead, knew that this period of time as the students come back and campuses reopen, there would be some challenges in terms of managing what needs to be managed as it relates to reopening our universities,” Swofford said. “And ultimately, hopefully, our athletic programs and the competition that comes with that. Nothing terribly surprising in that regard (has happened).
"There are more of our students coming onto campus this week, next week. But we knew these first couple of weeks would be challenging in a lot of different ways. That's proving to be true. But at the same time, in terms of the management of our athletic programs and the containment of the virus within those programs and the testing that is going on, it continues to go well."
Can the ACC play safely despite the recent outbreaks? Swofford believes it can.
"The whole effort, really, is aimed at answering the question 'Can we play safely?' And can we mitigate the virus in a way that keeps our student-athletes and others around the program and involved with the competition safe? And therefore is it appropriate to go forward? So far our board in the ACC, which is our presidents, continue to believe that is the case,” Swofford said. “That's why we have consistently stayed with the process we've had for the last five months and consistently stayed, so far, with the idea that we can mitigate it and play safely and that is the best thing for our student-athletes.
"Every week is different and the students coming back to our campus changes that environment, and hopefully that can be managed in an appropriate way that continues to for us to have the answers we've had the last few weeks in terms of going ahead with play. But every day is a new day and every week is a new week. So far we have stayed on that same path, as has the SEC and Big 12."
The NCAA has canceled fall championships in Olympic sports, but Swofford believes it’s important to still play those sports this fall but needs guidance from the NCAA.
"It's still important. We need some definitive answers from the NCAA that helps us in that regard. (Thursday) coming out of the NCAA Council, I think we started seeing some of that information,” Swofford said. "I think we're going to end up with a situation where our athletes will not use a year of eligibility this year because of the uniqueness of everything that's happening and the unknowns as to how many games may be played and when they may be played. So I think what seems to be coming from the NCAA is a positive for student-athletes and a positive for us making decisions in terms of the Olympic sports where we could go ahead and play in the fall if medically cleared, and yet play in the spring as well when the NCAA may have a national championship.
"It's unlikely that there will be Olympic national championships in the fall. There could be Atlantic Coast Conference championships and an SEC championship and a Big 12 championship and so forth. Hopefully that would not be a deterrent to our teams playing in the spring as well, if the NCAA national championship exists there and not be losing a year of eligibility as well. That clarification will be helpful for us moving forward."