The Tennessee Volunteers’ Saturday scrimmage had to be scratched when 44 players were ruled out due to either positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing. Coach Jeremy Pruitt said “seven or eight” players tested positive, while the others are quarantined due to contact tracing, according to 247Sports. The remaining athletes were able to practice, although only 30 offensive players were available.
“I think our guys are trying to do the right thing,” Pruitt said. “They’re aware of it. You know, if somebody that you live with [tests positive], you’re in quarantine. In our county, that’s the way it is. It might be like that everywhere. We’ve had some of that… But, I don’t think it’s something to where our players are not being responsible. I definitely don’t think that.”
While general contact tracing guidelines differ from state-to-state, the NCAA and SEC have attempted the streamline those guidelines for student athletes. NCAA guidelines mandate players who test positive must sit for 10 days and have three days without symptoms before returning to action. Anyone who had high-risk contact (also referred to as prolonged close contact) with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to quarantine for 14 days. The conference defines this high-risk contact as spending more than 15 minutes within six feet of someone who tests positive. A negative test result does not shorten or end the required quarantine period for those affected by contact tracing.
Tennessee, along with dozens of college football programs across the country, was originally slated to begin the season on Saturday. With 44 players out of commission, Coach Pruitt says he is “really happy we didn’t play today,” but the official UT football Twitter account didn’t seem to agree.
Wishing it was gameday pic.twitter.com/JkmRSzXiKf
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) September 5, 2020
Tennessee is the latest school to deal with this issue, but it’s certainly not the only program that has experienced a personnel shortage due to COVID-19 positive tests or contact tracing regulations. Kentucky’s first opponent, Auburn, canceled practice last week after 16 players had to sit out for the same reasons. As for the Wildcats, three players have tested positive for COVID-19 so far in fall camp, although one was already in isolation due to contact with an infected person.
Mark Stoops was asked about the uptick in cases on Auburn’s team last Saturday:
“I don’t spend any time really monitoring what’s going on there, I really don’t. That’s not to say that you don’t read any media coverage at all or anything. Certainly you see things or hear things in the office, but it’s not my concern because I can’t control that. Certainly, I hope we are all staying as safe as possible and keeping things under control because you always worry about that. You feel like if it gets out of control at any other place, it can affect you and it can affect us and our players, so for us, our focus is on keeping ourselves as safe as possible, and doing the things that we can do that controls our environment. And once again, we’re far from perfect, but I think our guys are doing a really good job and for us, right now, we have it as under control as you can, statistically. We’re doing as good as we can. Glad our players are doing it.”
The Volunteers are scheduled to play the Wildcats on Oct. 17 in Knoxville. Let’s hope everyone is healthy by then.