After Syracuse football players withdrew 2 days of training, AD John Wildhack urges ACC to strengthen testing protocol

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Syracuse, NY – After football players in Syracuse decided not to train Thursday and Friday, athletic director John Wildhack released a statement Friday afternoon.

Wildhack wrote that at the team’s request, the SU will test players twice a week starting the week of September 7. He urged the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference to adopt the same protocol.

“Syracuse Athletics is committed to doing everything we can to support and protect the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, staff and the communities on campus and in Syracuse,” said Wildhack in a statement. “That’s why, in consultation with the Onondaga County Health Department, health professionals and public health experts, we have developed a comprehensive strategy that allows our student-athletes to train in all safety to compete in the coming 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.”

Just hours before preseason camp opened on Thursday afternoon, the players decided to stay indoors and hold a series of team meetings. Those sessions, some of which included Wildhack and head coach Dino Babers, continued on Friday, source told Post-Standard | Syracuse.com. SU Athletics confirmed that practices did not take place on Thursday and Friday.

The source said players were concerned that other ACC schools, as well as non-conference opponent Liberty, would be as cautious as Syracuse. The SU has performed 1,200 tests since the players began returning to campus in early June, Babers said Thursday. The school did not make any results accessible to the public.

“Syracuse Athletics unequivocally supports our student-athletes in determining whether or not they are comfortable competing this year,” Wildhack wrote. “We will continue to support student-athlete scholarships regardless of their intention to compete, as helping them achieve their academic goals is our primary goal and priority.

The Syracuse players’ decision to sit comes at a time when their peers across the country are pushing for tougher security measures.

A group of Pac-12 players threaten to be absent for the year unless conference responds to demands covering Covid-19 protections, name, image and likeness rights, insurance coverage during six years after the end of college eligibility, social and financial justice reform payment – 50% of total conference revenues from each sport split equally among athletes in their respective sports.

A group of Big Ten actors are calling for several similar changes regarding coronavirus testing, contact tracing and social distancing. However, they did not say they would stay away if their demands were not met.

The Orange’s next scheduled practice will be on Saturday at an undisclosed time.

ACC’s current coronavirus plan does not include testing as frequent as that of the SEC and the Big Ten. For high risk sports like football, players and those “in close contact” with players (coaches, support staff, sports coaches, etc.) will be tested weekly during the season. The test must be administered within three days of the game.

ACC medical rules state that any player who tests positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate for at least 10 days, then have no fever for an additional day before returning to participation. Any player who comes in close contact with someone who tests positive must be quarantined for 14 days.

One orange player, red-shirted first-year defensive lineman Cooper Dawson, has already accepted the NCAA’s offer to retire from the season and keep his purse. Others plan to do the same, Babers said Thursday.

“There are people who are on hold, but right now he’s the only one I’m going to talk about,” Babers said. “… We have guys who have talked about it. The guys who mentioned it. They go to discuss it with their parents and they still think about certain situations.

The NCAA has said each of the three divisions must settle the eligibility rules for players who retire before Aug. 14.

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Stephen Bailey covers Syracuse football for The Post-Standard / syracuse.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ Stephen_Bailey1. Do you have a question or a story idea? Contact anytime by email.

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