UofL football has zero positives; ACC still firm on decision to play

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- In a teleconference with reporters Monday morning Louisville football coach Scott Satterfield launched into a spirited defense of the college football season being played despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.


He complimented his players and the school's medical staff for the protocols they put into place and his players for their compliance with those protocols, emphasizing that his players had remained relatively safe during the pandemic.


Then, Tuesday on the NBC TODAY show, he echoed those comments while also revealing that the football program has had "around" four COVID-19 cases since UofL began testing on June 2 and phasing in student-athletes on June 8.


After Satterfield's appearance on national TV, UofL spokesman Kenny Klein confirmed that since June 2 the university had administered approximately 580 tests for football players and staff, resulting in four positive tests for players and three for staff members.


And later in the day, school officials said the entire team of 115 players were tested again Tuesday morning before the seventh practice of fall camp and had zero positive tests.


"We have been very successful in everything we've been doing," Satterfield said. "Everything is going very smooth here, so we're just excited about moving forward and getting the season underway. But we all know that the elephant in the room is, are we playing, are we going to have a season? And I think that's the thing that's weighing on everybody's mind right now."


In a teleconference Tuesday, offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford was also complimentary to the medical and training staff.


"My hat's off to those guys," Ledford said. "What we have done here, I think it has been phenomenal. There can't be enough good things said to the amount of work our medical and training people have put into making this go the way it's going."


Since voluntary workouts began last month, numerous UofL players have said they have no qualms about playing this season and have praised the steps taken by the school to keep them as safe as possible.


"I'm not going to lie to you," senior wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick said. "I feel safer in the stadium and in this atmosphere than I do in the outside world."


"It's just a risk you have to take," senior linebacker C.J. Avery said Tuesday. "I think all the players feel the safest here in this facility (the football complex). Our staff is doing a tremendous job with all the protocols and things like that."


Avery said UofL athletics director Vince Tyra spoke with the team in a Zoom meeting Monday night and reassured the players that the ACC's plan is still to go ahead and open the season the week of Sept. 5-12.


"What I got from it was that the ACC is standing for what they believe in and what they're going to do," Avery said.


While the Big Ten and Pac-12 Tuesday announced they are canceling fall sports, and the Pac-12 is shutting down all sports until January, the ACC announced it will continue to move forward on the advice of its Medical Advisory Board.


The Big Ten and Pac-12 actions leaves the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 as the remaining conferences in the Power 5 who have not canceled football this fall. Three leagues in the group of five Football Bowl Subdivision conferences -- the Sun Belt, Conference USA, and American Athletic Conference -- are still planning on playing this year.


"The safety of our students, staff, and overall campus communities will always be our top priority, and we are pleased with the protocols being administered on our 15 campuses," the ACC's statement said. "We will continue to follow our process that has been in place for months and has served us well. We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves."


Meanwhile, the chairman of the ACC's medical advisory troupe told Sports Business Daily that he believes a fall football season can be played safely, and Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke University infectious disease expert, also thinks the risk is manageable.


"We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe," Dr. Wolfe told the publication. "Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that's no different than living as a student on campus."


Tyra told WDRB.com columnist Rick Bozich in a text message that he was caught off guard by the Big Ten and Pac-12 decisions in light of an absence of any recent developments.


"I'm surprised at the change of direction with nothing tangibly different from a health and safety standpoint," Tyra said. "I would be intrigued to see how they weighed safely playing in the spring and next fall versus playing this fall and next fall. I'm not excited about that notion due to the physical requirements of the sport and needed time for recovering between seasons."


Without naming any conferences, and before the moves by the Big Ten and Pac-12 had been officially announced, Satterfield was critical and blunt about what he termed a "lack of leadership" regarding the issue.


"We all were in our house for three months," he said. "Plenty of time to put a plan together. And when you put a plan together, then you work your plan. That's what we do as leaders. You plan it out, but then you say, 'Oh we can't do that, it's too hard, we've got to just shut the whole thing down now.’ That's the very easiest thing to do. That's a lack of leadership, in my opinion."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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