LSU asked a number of football players to self-quarantine in the past week because of instances in which some players tested positive for the novel coronavirus after social interactions outside of the Tigers' training facility.
"This is what we anticipated. We planned for this. Our plan is working the way it should," senior associate athletic director of health and wellness Shelly Mullenix told The Associated Press on Saturday, adding that none of the players have exhibited "significant" symptoms.
"We haven't seen anything even close to a bad illness, but we're prepared for that," Mullenix said. "What we have right now is quite manageable."
Mullenix declined to specify the number of players who have tested positive or the precise number of those asked to quarantine, stressing the number is fluid and can fluctuate considerably in short periods of time. But she emphasized that a single positive test could result in as many as 12 to 15 players being asked to initially quarantine because of LSU's contact tracing procedures. Several media reports have attributed specific numbers to unnamed sources, but Mullenix called those numbers "inaccurate."
"If our quarantine number is high, it means our players have been communicating not only where they've been and who've they've been with, but also their symptoms, as we instructed them to," Mullenix said.
Some schools have released figures on coronavirus testing. On Friday, Clemson said 28 athletes or staff members have tested positive since returning to campus June 8. Last weekend, Louisiana Tech said it had one positive test.
Mullenix said LSU has been working closely with state health officials who would be able to suggest the football program — the reigning national champion _ make changes or even halt workouts at its Baton Rouge, Louisiana, campus if they saw a need for that.
"We're fortunate in what we're seeing," Mullenix said. "If they were to ask us to close down, that would be evidence that we've crossed some threshold that's too difficult to manage."
LSU players began reporting to the on-campus training facility during the first week in June for antibody testing and physicals.
Strength training and conditioning began the following week with social distancing rules that limited the number of players in the weight room to 20 at a time at regularly sanitized and spaced-apart racks. Each rack contains all weights needed for the day's workout, so there's no need for players to cross paths or take turns using the same equipment. The racks are sanitized between each use, and LSU also has set up machines like those in hospitals that circulate air through virus-killing ultraviolet light.
Also, players must answer a series of questions and have their temperature scanned before they may enter the facility. Conditioning takes place on three outdoor football fields.
"We're monitoring it on a daily basis," Mullenix said. "We're catching people (with temperature or symptoms) where we want to catch them, right at the entrance, and we're able to quarantine people before they even get into the facility."
Mullenix said LSU's combination of testing for antibodies and active disease, as well as contact tracing, has enabled the university to virtually rule out transmission occurring at on-campus football facilities.
But she noted that LSU always expected at least some players and possibly coaches to contract the virus throughout the year, particularly as they go about their lives outside of football.
"It's a pandemic; by definition, it would have been foolish to think it wouldn't happen," she said, but added that "if these cases are accounted for, then there's control, which is different than if you had a bunch of cases popping up and had no idea where they were coming from.
"We've limited community spread, slowed down spread through the team," she added. "It's a slow, controlled burn. The curve is flat, and that's what you want."
LSU is scheduled to open the season against the University of Texas at San Antonio on Sept. 5 in Tiger Stadium.
Bruins say it's all good
LOS ANGELES — UCLA officials said they feel positive regarding answering the concerns raised by football players about returning to campus for the first time in three months after the pandemic halted all athletic activities.
Athletic director Martin Jarmond wrote to players about the concerns raised in a letter received by the department on Friday. The Los Angeles Times reported that 30 football players signed a letter asking for a third-party health official to monitor football practices. The letter also seeks anonymous whistle-blower protections for athletes and staff to report violations, along with making sure each player's decision to return to campus is voluntary without fear of losing a scholarship.
According to The Times, the letter cited "neglected and mismanaged injury cases" as a reason it was sent. Players wrote that if their demands were not met, they would not participate in booster or recruiting events as well as any football-related promotions.
Matt Elliott, the university's senior associate athletic director for internal operations, said during a conference call Saturday that most of what the players requested was already in place or being reviewed.
"Coach (Chip) Kelly and Martin got on a Zoom call on Friday to answer questions. It was voluntary and a great opportunity for everyone to have clear and direct answers," Elliott said.
Football players and athletes from fall Olympic sports (men's and women's soccer, women's volleyball, men's water polo and cross country) who live locally will be allowed to return Monday. UCLA's plan has four phases, starting with COVID-19 and antibody testing as well as a physical and mental health screening. The first phase for athletes is expected to last from three to 10 days before they can begin strength and conditioning workouts.
The UCLA plan was done in conjunction with the Los Angeles County health department. The NCAA recently approved a plan allowing for extended football and basketball workouts next month, but the county has not cleared UCLA for that timeline as of yet.
Having athletes return to UCLA's campus follows a rough week for college athletics. Clemson reported on Friday that 23 football players were among 28 people who tested positive for COVID-19 since returning earlier this month. A day earlier, Texas reported 13 additional positive cases, with 10 more asymptomatic and in self-quarantine.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was one of the players signing the letter, took to Twitter on Friday to say the letter doesn't single out Kelly, but that it was about the safety of the program as a whole.
"No one said they didn't trust coach Kelly ... Don't turn this into a feeding frenzy on Coach," Thompson-Robinson tweeted. "Would also like to state that Coach Kelly agrees with ALL of the demands on this letter and is working to get them in place."
The football team, which includes former Cleveland (Tennessee) High School standout Keegan Jones, is scheduled to open the season Aug. 29 against New Mexico State at the Rose Bowl.
Leaves Tide for Texas Tech
LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech is adding graduate transfer Chadarius Townsend, who was used sparingly at running back by Alabama and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Townsend was a standout high school quarterback in Alabama before joining the Crimson Tide in 2017. After a redshirt season, he split time at running back and receiver while also playing special teams for two years. He had eight carries for 22 yards last season.
Coach Matt Wells has now added a grad transfer at running back in each of his two offseasons with the Red Raiders. Armand Shyne came over from Utah last year and finished second on the team in rushing with 374 yards.
SaRodorick Thompson led Texas Tech with 765 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground as a redshirt freshman last year. He was the eighth player to lead the Red Raiders in rushing as a freshman. Another freshman, Ta'Zhawn Henry, was third, behind Shyne.
Townsend, who got his degree in human environmental science in three years, is the fourth graduate transfer to join Texas Tech this offseason. The others are linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle (Michigan State), offensive lineman Josh Burger (Wofford) and linebacker Jacob Morgenstern (Duke).