4:25 P.M. (EASTERN TIME)
- Andrea Adelson
Senior Editor ESPN
- Journalist for the CCA.
- Member of ESPN.com since 2010.
- Graduated from the University of Florida.
- David M. Hale
- Journalist for the CCA.
- Member of ESPN since 2012.
- A graduate of the University of Delaware.
The Clemson players were having breakfast under a huge circus tent in the parking lot of the Commando Hotel in Tallahassee, Florida, when lineman Matt Bockhorst noticed something strange. Dabo Piggy was nowhere to be found. The head coach was never late for the team’s breakfast and Bockhorst immediately noticed something was wrong.
Of course, the word began to spread in the room, and then it became official: Clemson-FSU was postponed because of the positive case of KOVID-19 on the Tiger list. The players of both teams felt the carpet roll out under their feet a few hours before the game.
The reaction to Saturday’s postponement – or, as Piggy claims, to the sanction – was quick.
Fans and players from both schools exchanged beards on Twitter. Each side tried to build its own story. The state of Florida, which lost by 35 points, dodged a blow, according to the Tiger fans. Clemenson simply traveled with a symptomatic player, and the Seminoles fans responded with a signal.
We were ‼️ We’re just as well here https://t.co/RzplTwn8FD.
– J Rob (@JanariusD1) 21. November 2020.
– 21. Walkers (@walkerparks64) November 2020
And in the days that followed, there was a very public dispute between the two programs, particularly with Piggy and Florida state bus Mike Norval, who traded Jebs, and PKS, who had to correct their original press release, suggesting that Clemenson was involved in the decision to move the game.
The frustration expressed by various trainers and employees was largely predictable. The battle is now being fought in public, players are disappointed and two programmes that were already involved in the dark financial picture during the pandemic are at stake due to the considerable loss of expenditure and income.
Parallel to the public battle, questions arose about the protocols of the two programmes and how the conference could reach this point.
Miscellaneous protocols and grey areas
The roots of Saturday’s disappointment lay as early as August, when the possibility of organising a university football match in 2020 was insignificant. As a source at ESPN confirmed, many athletic directors predicted chaos at the time as the AD, coaches and medical staff haggling over contingency plans and testing procedures.
Surprisingly, according to one trainer, it took so long to identify the problems that a gray area was built into the protocols, meaning that both Florida and Clemenson could claim to have followed the rules while reasoning from completely different angles.
We told the DA this was gonna happen, a CCA coach told ESPN.
One of the CCA coaches made the following assumption in August, as the league is still deciding whether or not to play soccer.
Think of this scenario: The team comes to us for the last game of the season, and if we win, we go to the CCA championship game, suggested one coach. Suddenly they decide that ten of their players cannot play, so they have to cancel the game, which is not a failure, and can go to the championship game instead.
From the beginning of the season it was clear to us that the chief physicians of both teams had to agree on the day of the race to feel at ease. If there had been disagreements, the game wouldn’t have happened. Everyone in the league knew about the deal.
While the CCA was considering appointing an independent referee to decide whether to hold the games, the league finally decided to leave the final decision to the medical staff of each school. After much discussion, everyone was of the opinion that for reasons of responsibility and local competence, according to the source, it should remain in the hands of the schools.
This scenario could happen in any league we have in any sport, CCA commissioner John Swofford told ESPN on Tuesday.
As the scenario ends on Saturday, it helped to reduce the delay: Each program works differently with pandemic protocols.
When the CCA issued its guidelines for the Medical Advisory Board in August, its protocols were mainly based on CDC recommendations, but they were quite grey, mainly because the CDC guidelines were written for daily activities rather than for football. For example, CCA’s contact tracing guidelines follow a standard rule: Exposure within a 1.80 m radius around an infected Covid-19 for at least 15 minutes for 24 hours.
But is this a reasonable standard for sports equipment or just for an informal conversation? An expert from the ACC Consultative Group then stated that it was impossible to know how important that distinction should be.
Clemson noted that the player who tested positive did not participate in training, showed symptoms and took significant precautions to reduce social distance – he used extra buses for transportation, wore masks and visors on the team plane.
For Clemson, this is a central part of his argument: She followed all CCA guidelines to the letter. To clearly illustrate how protocols work, Piggy referred to the case of Tiger vs. October. Star Trevor Lawrence trained earlier this week, although he showed mild symptoms of the virus, but did not test positive until Thursday before the match. Clemson got Lawrence out as instructed by the CCA, and the game went on without delay, with no action being taken by the other players that Clemson had missed due to follow-up contact or illness.
The main difference, according to the source, is that Clemenson traveled with a player who tested positive, and schools are aware of several cases in the country where a player who was unknowingly infected unknowingly spread the virus while traveling with the team. Baylor explained his flash by saying that after what he thought was a false negative test, she went to West Virginia while Florida tracked down her problems with the trip to Texas A&M.
Even though it was the first time the race was cancelled on the day of the race, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Two weeks ago, after his team beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, Miami coach Manny Diaz said the game was about to be canceled and the final decision on the game was made Saturday morning after receiving all the tests of his Friday.
As several trainers have indicated, the different schools have their own guidelines for follow-up contacts, some of which are much stricter than others, depending on the local guidelines in force and the people involved in the follow-up.
In the case of Florida, Norval indicated that he discouraged players and coaches from any team action, including going to games, simply because they had possible symptoms. Piggy argued that we should trust the tests and said that it would be unfair to let a player who did not test positive.
Based on the CDC’s basic guidelines, both programmes are correct, and the League has deliberately left a vague interpretation of the rules, noting that different states and municipalities will have different requirements.
The risk is proportional to several things: the proximity of two people, the length and frequency of their contact, whether they are inside or outside, whether they are both camouflaged, and so on, said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, chairman of the Council’s advisory group. And each school is responsible for monitoring the contacts and supervision of the local health authorities in relation to the campus.
Then it’s only a matter of time. Currently, CCA has to be tested three times a week and the last test is performed within 24 hours of the start of activity. This may have caused more problems for Clemson and the state of Florida than any other part of the world.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Calculation of sports media via AP images
The competition spent weeks discussing whether schools should have test results on hand before flying or taking the bus to the games. The medical advisory group wanted the tests to be carried out as close to playing time as possible and with the best results, so they stopped the PCR tests the day before the match. The testing will be carried out by an independent third party mandated by the CCA, so that schools can trust the results, said a league source.
These tests are carried out when landing on the site or before leaving for the games on campus, depending on the location of the campus. It takes several hours to process the results, and they are not known until late in the evening or early the next morning. Letting teams travel without knowing who is positive seemed a risky proposition for some in the competition. I always thought it was a bad decision to test people and then fly, a source said.
The CCA is one of the few competitions that applies this policy. Two officials of teams who played CCA in off-conference games this season noticed the difference between the CCA policy and the policy of their own league. One of them stated that the whole fiasco could have been avoided if the CCA had acted in the same way as the other leagues. Another official stated that his team had requested permission from the CCA to carry out tests Thursday evening before the trip to avoid this scenario. For example, the SEC will test on Thursday whether there are any infected players or staff members travelling with the team.
Earlier this year Michael Kelly told ESPN that when I travel, I want to know that everything on this plane is negative to say the least.
Finally, there is the issue of transfer to the field. What doctors now know about the virus compared to August is important, and the matches of the season have provided enough information on the subject.
Notre Dame, for example, was the most famous of the 19th century. September hosts USF and is in isolation or quarantine with 39 players chased by the Irish for a pre-game meal and one player who then tested KOVID and threw on the sidelines during the match. As a result, the SFUs had to perform their own contact tracing. This, in combination with their own COVID problems, caused the police to postpone their next match. Another possibility, however, is that none of the players identified by the contact tracing on the match day turns out to carry a virus.
ESPN spoke with many coaches and ADs to clarify the transmission of the virus, and they all stated that they were not aware of any cases where a player had been infected during training or the game.
Fault! The file name is not specified. – set
Coach Mike Norval of Florida said his team was happy with the game against Clemson, but felt they had to postpone it for reasons related to KOVID-19.
Although the failure of the Clemson FSU did not have serious consequences for the Seminoles, the threat to their playing ability formed the basis for the hostilities that followed the postponement.
The tension increased after Piggy threw petrol into the fire on Sunday during a press conference with Clemenson, sports director Dan Radakovic.
This game was not cancelled because of COVID, Piggy said on Sunday. Covid was just an excuse to call it off. I have no doubt their players wanted and would play. The same goes for the trainers. As far as I’m concerned, the Florida state government has lost the game.
FSU coach Mike Norval then came to a press conference on Monday afternoon where he said that coaches are not doctors, even though some of us think they are.
Piggy fired another sheep from FSU in response to his Monday night radio show, and based on the exposed story that Pitt had traveled with a sick player just a week earlier and that the state of Florida was still playing the game. (According to a source at Pitt, this is not true).
The verbal war against security protocols, waged on request via social networks, zoom and radio, was endless.
Norvell needed a cautious approach after parents and players expressed concerns about testing and transparency before the start of the season. The coaching staff is still working on building trust within the team, which has undergone two coaching changes in three years.
Piggy, meanwhile, felt compelled to defend his program’s approach in light of the severity of the virus after Clemson treated a larger outbreak earlier this summer.
We’ve been moderating the situation all year, Sweeney. That’s all I’m saying. The meetings, the training, the meals, the accommodation, the way we travel.
Both parties put forward strong arguments based on their own perceptions and underlined how clever this compromise would be from the outset.
In August, we didn’t even think we were going to play. If we had everything we need to be renewed, and if we had the knowledge we have now, we probably would have added something, said one of the trainers.
In this case, Clemson’s medical advisors called Florida’s Friday night to tell them that the player with the symptoms had been on the team for a week and had received a positive test result when they arrived in Tallahassee on Friday. Clemson thought he could play safely; the state of Florida was very concerned that a player with symptoms could be close to his teammates because they had a much stricter policy regarding players with symptoms.
Our schools were and have been aware from the outset that in these unique times we will respect everyone’s choices, and in the vast majority of cases we have, Mr Sufford said. What didn’t work at the time was that both teams were on site, but the head doctors of the institutions and the administration couldn’t agree on the final result.
Mr. Norval added that this is where the biggest problems lie. Everyone can manage their programs differently. All we care about is that our actors are protected.
Clemson notes that the player in question did not take part in training last weekend and showed symptoms, but went back to work with his teammates after several negative tests. The Clemson doctors in Florida told the doctors that the player with the symptoms was on the team for a week.
Clemson offered to move the game to Sunday or Monday after further tests, but FSU refused. This highlights another problem in the way teams work with test procedures. Routine tests can help contain the virus, but it’s not a panacea.
Although most patients develop symptoms within two to five days of exposure, this period can last up to 14 days, a member of the CCA Medical Advisory Group said. Therefore, people who have been exposed during this 14-day period should be placed in quarantine to ensure that they have had sufficient time to declare themselves ill or not. While it makes sense to test quarantine with repeated negative tests – and some groups do – the tests are not sensitive enough to guarantee absolutely that you will catch anyone who is positive.
Norval said it was a problem to let a player with symptoms just walk around the team. If a player shows symptoms, we keep them away from the object. Not only the health of our players is important, but also that of our opponents.
What’s the next step?
How does the JRC proceed and is it trying to avoid such a situation, not only in football, but also in basketball and all other sports? Mr Radakovich suggested reviewing the testing protocols 24 hours before the games and leaving the decision to the senior medical advisors in the schools.
Mr. Swofford reiterated that the Medical Advisory Group wants the test to be as close as possible to the time of the race, so it is unlikely that the day before the test will change. However, he also added that schools are invited to run tests on their own campuses on Thursdays to provide an extra level of testing.
Regarding a possible change in the way you decide whether it’s safe to play, Mr. Swofford said that all teams have agreed to leave that decision to the chief physician, stating that the league will never force a team to play against the advice of its own doctors. I don’t think those decisions can be made outside the medical community, he said.
But the CCA also constantly asks its Athletic Directors and Medical Advisory Board to review and revise their protocols. It has already been asked whether the Medical Advisory Panel should consider whether there should be a standard for the treatment of symptomatic players by teams.
If adjustments are necessary, they will be made, according to Swofford. We’ve been doing this all season. There comes a time when the medical profession is trusted.
Mr. Swofford also reported that he had spoken to the presidents and directors of the Clemenson and Florida Schools of Athletics and that they had spoken to each other to ensure good and respectful communication within this group.
When asked how the two schools could put this behind them, Mr. Swofford answered Go ahead. There is a season to be completed and the respect to be shared within the union – as happens in the vast majority of cases – and the relationship to be maintained between the institutions. That’s what they expect in this competition.