Over the weekend, the West Virginia University Athletics Communications department announced 28 players had tested positive for COVID-19 since they began testing in June.
The West Virginia Football program saw a significant spike with 19 positives in July.
“We had 19 positive tests in short term, and it was really after the July 4 holiday about the same time Monongalia had the spike, we had a spike in the football program as well,” said West Virginia Athletic Director Shane Lyons on West Virginia MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval. “And from what we can gather in going back into contact tracing, it appears that it did not happen during their football facility workouts, it’s their social activities outside of football that we believe the positive cases occurred.”
Lyons also stated that the 19 players that tested positive, around the same amount had to self-quarantine through contact tracing.
The hope around the athletic department is that this has been a learning lesson for the players.
“If we learned anything about this, and this is what we told our student-athletes, is that they have an accountability as well outside of our facilities and what we’re doing to try and prevent this. And by going into large crowds and by going into facilities on High Street, etc, that can’t happen if we want to play football. So if anything, we may have learned some things as well.
Despite the recent outbreaks in certain areas around the country, Lyons is still optimistic about having a football season.
“If our players do what we’re asking them to do and that goes, again, for our whole society just not our football student-athletes, is understanding the three steps that we have to take; the social distancing, the handwashing, and the masking. If we do those things, and you come into our facilities, we have a chance to play football in September.”
Later, Lyons also insinuated that the players understand the ramifications if they don't hold themselves accountable outside of the football facilities.
“I think from this spike that we had, we learned a lot from it. And, our student-athletes understand what this virus can do to the team and take a lot of guys out of practice and competitions if they don’t do the things that we’re asking them to do.”
The Mountaineers started the first phase of mandatory football activities last week on Monday, July 13th which coaches can require student-athletes to participate in up to eight hours of weight training, conditioning, and film review per week (not more than two hours of film review per week).
Missing practice time is crucial in normal circumstances but in a year where there was no spring practice because of the pandemic and a young team coming off a 5-7 season, this time is extremely valuable.
West Virginia begins the second phase on Friday, July 24th. It's a two-week period that participation is upped to 20 hours a week. It includes eight hours for weight training, six hours for walkthroughs (that can include footballs), and six hours for meetings (film review, team meetings, position meetings, one-on-one meetings, etc.) but no more than four hours per day. Additionally, student-athletes are required to have two days off during this period.
Fall camp begins August 7th.
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