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Big East COVID-19 protocols remain a work in progress

Commissioner Val Ackerman says the conference has yet to set its COVID-19 testing and quarantine guidelines.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Like most things these days, it looks like the Big East’s COVID-19 protocols are up in the air until further notice. Commissioner Val Ackerman said Wednesday that the conference is still finalizing a plan with its schools and added that guidelines will be based on NCAA recommendations.

“We do expect a uniformity in the standard just so that we can make sure that all Big East schools are kind of following the same level of compliance so that we can assure the health and safety of all of our participants,” Ackerman said.

Testing protocols

Ackerman said the Big East will have a standard for testing that she expects to include a mix of PCR and antigen testing.

As it currently stands, the NCAA has recommended that schools test three times per week starting on the week before their first game. They are also recommending that any positive test from players, coaches, or essential staff is followed up by a 14-day quarantine for the entire team.

The NCAA’s recommendation is as follows:

“If any Tier 1 individual becomes infected, schools should consider quarantining the entire team, including coaching staff and other essential personnel who are part of Tier 1, for 14 days, provided determinations around who must be quarantined are ultimately the jurisdiction of applicable public health officials. At present, there is not a recommendation for consideration of testing out of quarantine.”

Ackerman said schools in the Big East have already begun testing and they expect to begin the three-times-per-week testing a week before game, as the NCAA recommends.

14-day quarantine

The Marquette men’s and women’s basketball teams were put into a 14-day quarantine after both programs reported a positive test on Oct. 21. They are due to resume basketball activities on Nov. 4. Until then, all players, coaches, and essential staff are going to be in quarantine, according to a school release.

Coach Hurley shared his thoughts on the 14-day quarantine and said, “For me, I do think you should be able to test out. You know that the 14 day quarantine for one positive test in a group, seems like that’s a little bit too long and that you should be able to test your way out of it. But again, I’m not a medical expert. We need to listen to the science and the doctors and trust those people.”

Hurley’s sentiments were shared by Villanova’s Jay Wright, who was quite vocal on his views regarding the variance allowed in COVID-19 protocols by the NCAA. The NCAA has left COVID-19 protocols largely up to the conferences. There are already two conferences who are not going with their guidelines, Wright said.

“If the NCAA is going to put guidelines out, then they should have a way to that you can mandate it and make sure that everybody does it,” Wright said. “That’s going to be a problem, I think, that’s going to be a problem.”

Wright pointed out that the impact on each program is more like 23 days, rather than 14, because of the heart tests and any further positives that might come up, potentially resetting the clock on the quarantine time.

Villanova was forced to stop workouts after people in the program tested positive last month. Wright said Wednesday that there were “four major injuries” sustained on the team after the team came back after 23 days of being out.

“There’s going to be more challenges this season than any season, probably in the history of college basketball,” Wright said.

Will there be fans in the stands?

Ackerman said they do not expect to have a conference mandate allowing or disallowing fans in conference games and will largely leave it up to schools how to handle fans, in accordance with state guidelines.

“The fact is, no matter what they come up with, there will be variances,” Ackerman said of any further potential NCAA COVID-19 restrictions. “Because states and jurisdictions will have differences in their large gathering restrictions, how many fans can be led into buildings.”

A number of college football programs have allowed fans at their games in a reduced capacity, as well as Major League Baseball and the National Football League.