Texas Sports Nation // College
As college football moves forward with plans to play this season, the American Athletic Conference will require all schools to test for COVID-19.
Commissioner Mike Aresco said the AAC’s task force is putting together safety protocols that involve league-wide testing for all sports, most notably football, beginning in the fall.
“We’ll have testing,” Aresco said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. “We’re not sure yet the exact testing protocols, but everybody will have testing. The question then becomes what kind of tests. We’re hoping the tests become even more sophisticated so you can get rapid results.”
There have been reported positive COVID-19 cases throughout the nation since campuses began to reopen for voluntary workouts on June 1. Six symptomatic student-athletes forced the University of Houston to shut down athletic activities Friday, and there were three cases at Central Florida, another AAC school. More than a dozen known Football Bowl Subdivision schools have reported COVID-19 positive results, among them Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
“You’re going to have some positive tests,” Aresco said, declining to specifically address the coronavirus outbreak at UH. “Everybody’s protocols are in place in terms of dealing with it. The schools have been in touch with their medical professionals and local and state health authorities.
“When it came time to open in June — and when practices start in July — we left it up to (member schools) as to how they wanted to deal with all the various things because there are complexities from state to state and campus to campus. We didn’t want to have a uniform opening time either. We felt when schools were ready, they could open up.”
Aresco said football has been the focus of early discussions due to the start of the season in late August, but the league’s testing protocol will include all sports.
“We’ve been focused mainly right now on football, but we have absolutely not ignored basketball and Olympic sports,” Aresco said. “We’re working on protocols for those as well.”
The plan, Aresco said, is for the AAC to have “minimum standards” and leave decisions whether to conduct more frequent testing and other safety measures to individual schools.
At UH, school officials did not require mandatory testing for student-athletes — which is believed to be about 80 players in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball — upon their return to campus for voluntary workouts. Instead, the school’s safety protocols relied on social distancing, temperature checks, questionnaires, contact-free facilities, and the use of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
Other AAC schools have taken additional safety measures. SMU had players take an antibody test to determine if they’ve previously had COVID-19 and a diagnostic test to see if they are currently infected, according to the Dallas Morning News. Tulane said players will be tested twice a week. Testing is also being done at UCF, Memphis and Navy. The Chronicle was unable to independently verify whether testing is being done at the league’s five other football-playing schools.
UH officials have yet to comment on the COVID-19 outbreak. A spokesman said school president Renu Khator was not available for comment.
Aresco said the AAC wants a “certain level of uniformity” in safety protocols once seasons begin.
“When it comes to the season, you’re going to have to have some standard protocols if everybody is going to feel confident when they play each other,” Aresco added. “We’re going to make sure the non-conference teams we play are essentially meeting our minimum standards. Our minimum standards are going to be very, very important.”
One plan is to create a “bubble,” Aresco said, prior to games that would involve players and staff, officials and game day crews going through advanced testing “so there are no issues.”