The Pac-12 and Big Ten players have issued demands that, in part, deal with increased focus on COVID-19 testing and safety protocols amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. ACC players as a group haven’t followed suit yet, but one team has raised its concerns in a different way.
Syracuse players refused to practice on Thursday and instead held a series of team meetings, according to Syracuse.com. Some of those meetings included coach Dino Babers and athletic director John Wildhack. It’s unclear what the players are hoping to receive in response to their decision to boycott practice. But the report states that it has more to do with how other ACC teams and nonconference opponent Liberty are handling testing rather than what’s being done in-house.
Wildhack issued a statement on Friday addressing the. report.
“Syracuse Athletics is committed to doing everything we can to support and protect the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, our staff and the campus and Syracuse communities,” he said. “That is why, in consultation with the Onondaga County Health Department, medical professionals and public health experts, we developed a comprehensive strategy that allows our student-athletes to safely train to compete in the upcoming season.
“Our strategy includes frequent COVID-19 testing and comprehensive resources and services to support the mental, physical and emotional well-being of our student-athletes. At the request of our student-athletes on the football team, we will conduct COVID-19 testing twice per week beginning the week of September 7. We will also encourage our fellow ACC institutions to adopt twice-weekly testing for football to foster and maintain a healthy environment for all our student-athletes to compete within.”
One player, defensive lineman Cooper Dawson, has already opted out of the 2020 season. Babers told reporters on Thursday that there could be more.
“There’s some people that are pending, but right now he’s the only one that I’m going to talk about,” Babers said. “We’ve got guys who have mentioned it. Guys who have talked about it. They’re going to talk things over with their parents and they’re still pondering some situations.”
Wildhack confirmed that the school fully supports the concerns of players who might opt out of playing.
“Syracuse Athletics unequivocally supports our student-athletes in determining whether or not they are comfortable competing this year,” he said. “We will continue to support student-athlete scholarships, regardless of their intention to compete, as helping them achieve their academic goals is our main focus and priority.”
The ACC announced last month that it will require all symptomatic athletes be tested for COVID-19 even if their symptoms are minimal. Temperature checks must be conducted for every player and staff member upon entering facilities. Players and people who have been in “close contact” with players must be tested within 72 hours of each game once the regular season starts.
Syracuse isn’t the first team to have players voice frustration over COVID-19 procedures. Unidentified Colorado State players said that there might be a cover-up within the program to limit the number of positive tests that become public. Other current players disputed that claim and the school is now investigating the report.