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John Swofford said he expects football after "fascinating summer"


by - Senior Writer -
Swofford said he doesn't think that they need all schools on board to play a season.
Swofford said he doesn't think that they need all schools on board to play a season.

John Swofford is hopeful that ACC sports will be played this fall, including football.

“It’s going to be a fascinating summer in a lot of ways, and hopefully we will get good news for our society and the safety of all of us as we move forward and we can get back to playing games again soon,” the ACC Commissioner said on a media teleconference Thursday.

He then went on to say that he expects to see sports this fall.

“I would emphasize that we are going into this year with the anticipation of playing (football and other fall sports) at this point in time,” Swofford said. “Most all of our institutions have indicated that they intend to open in various fashions as we go into the fall. But there’s a lot that can happen between now and then.

“But I think you’ll find our campuses moving forward athletically to try to be ready in every way, shape, and form to open the fall sports season and then if we’re not able to do that, when that time comes, be prepared to do it in whatever abbreviated fashion we can do so.”

He was asked if the ACC could play games and function if some schools decided to not play in the interest of safety.

“I think probably so. I don’t know what the threshold is on that,” Swofford said. “We haven’t really reached a point of having that discussion. I’m sure we will in due time as to whether it’s three-fourths or two-thirds or 50 percent or whatever it might be. But I don’t think some schools not being able to compete necessarily keeps a majority of the schools who could compete from competing. It’s premature to answer that question fully at this point.”

Students taking classes on campus will go a long way towards determining if sports are played.

“If the students are back and in session – and there are different definitions of what’s ‘open’ in today’s world – but if campuses are back and generally operating and teaching in whatever way," Swofford said, "I think that certainly improves the likelihood that games are being played, whether it’s with fans or whether it’s without fans.”

Swofford said the conference will be “nimble” as discussions move forward and will be base decisions on the latest medical data for each location. If classes are held on campuses this fall, he said it improves the likelihood that football games will take place.

The conference has also set up a COVID-19 advisory group chaired by Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a professor in the division of infectious disease at Duke. The committee will consist of a person from each of the 15 ACC schools.

“We feel like they can be a tremendous asset to us in making decisions on when to play and under what circumstances," Swofford said, "and what protocols will be important as we move forward.”

The topic of testing protocols was also broached, and Swofford said he didn’t know when testing would occur or how much it would cost but is hopeful that all schools will follow the same baselines.

“I think testing is going to be critical for us to get back to bring our student-athletes back together and train and prepare for a season and then play a season,” Swofford said. “That’s one of the reasons we felt it was important to put this (medical advisory) group together. I think there will be a great deal of comfort if you know that the people you are competing against are following the same, or very similar, protocols in terms of maintaining the health and safety issues on a daily basis as well as on a game day. So, that would be the goal.

“One of the things colleges can look at is whatever happens with the professional leagues this summer, whether it’s the NBA or Major League Baseball or the NFL. The A5 commissioners were on a lengthy call with the NFL last week with Commissioner Goodell. We may benefit from certain things that are done even before the NFL gets back to camp and plays under whatever circumstances they might plan in. I do think that testing is going to be critical for our ability to get back and bring our student-athletes back.”

What type of information is he looking for from the task force?

“What the risks are, what the protocols would need to be to protect all involved,” Swofford said. “To see what the protocol might be if a player or a coach or a trainer tested positive for the virus and what is done from that point on. All of those are examples of questions that will need to be answered if we’re bringing our students and our athletes back together.”

Pressed specifically on whether he could foresee football games being played without students physically being on campus, Swofford said, “That seems foreign to me, personally, because we’re part of an educational setting and intercollegiate athletics are students playing sports. … But we’ll have to wait and see. It’s another unanswered question right now.”

Would the conference consider conference-only football games, and would Notre Dame fit into that model?

“To be determined, but with the relationship that we have with Notre Dame and they’re already playing six games with our teams, if that was something that was best for the ACC and best for Notre Dame, we would certainly have that conversation with Notre Dame. It is part of our discussions but that’s only one of the multiple paths this could take,” Swofford said.

He was then asked if all ACC teams would start and practice and play at the same time, and he said he didn’t know.

“It’s hard to say right now. We’re in 10 states and the states have a great deal to say as to whether games can be played and under what circumstances,” Swofford said. “Obviously the hope is that all 14 of our schools (15 with Notre Dame), that everybody can be on the same page but there are a lot of decision-makers in this beyond athletics. So it’s complicated. You’re going to have medical people, and science, and governors and what’s allowed in states and college presidents and their boards in terms of reopening campuses.”

What would happen if there was a second wave of COVID-19 infections?

“Sometimes I feel like all we’re dealing with is hypotheticals and that’s a tough world to live in because of the inability to narrow those potential paths to only a few,” Swofford said. “Right now they’re well beyond a few. A second wave that’s certainly another pathway that we would have to consider and have a sense of how to deal with it. But there will be a lot of people making decisions before athletics would be making decisions about that kind of situation.”

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