As the Atlantic Coast Conference marches forward with plans to begin its football season in September, Boston College reported Friday negative results for all 105 players after its most recent round of COVID-19 testing.
Since returning to campus in June, BC has administered 792 tests with one positive case in the first round of results. The Eagles test twice a week — once for players then again for players and staff.
BC is the only football program in New England with intentions of playing in the fall. With players confined to campus in Chestnut Hill, following safety protocols has been essential in at least giving the Eagles a chance at moving forward with a season.
“It just shows you that our guys are doing everything they can to keep each other safe and I give them credit,” coach Jeff Hafley said. “The protocols are on point. We’re following them the best that we can and we feel safe around here in our bubble. Again, I credit the team for caring about and loving each other and doing everything we ask of them right now, because it’s not easy and there’s going to be times where it does get hard.
“It’s pretty amazing when you look at what these guys have done so far in back-to-back-to-back-to-back tests. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and keep doing the best we can to keep it that way.”
While the Big Ten and Pac-12 earlier this week became the first Power 5 conference schools to cancel football, the ACC, along with the SEC, stood firm with plans to restart in September. Around the conference, some ACC schools have had issues. Players at Syracuse have opted out of practice three times since last week due to concerns about coronavirus testing, according to Syracuse.com. Pitt canceled its Thursday practice after several players showed symptoms consistent with the virus.
Hafley said the results since BC opened camp have validated the measures they’ve taken to ensure player safety.
“It just means we’re doing the best we can right now and we’ve got to keep moving forward,” Hafley said. “We’re getting better on the football field, we’re learning the scheme, we’re getting better fundamentally. But doing all the right things off the field is giving us a chance to do them on the field and so far we’ve been very fortunate to do that. So hopefully we’ll keep moving forward and we’ll kick the ball off in September. I’m hoping that everything stays the way it is right now because our guys are excited.”
He added that his staff has to continue to drive home the message that players must continue to follow the guidelines.
“There has to be a reminder because just when you think things are going well, that’s when you have to ramp up and do even better,” Hafley said. “So we just have to continue to talk about it and the guys have to continue to work at it. That’s all.”
The controlled setting has allowed staff and players to keep themselves accountable. A new host of variables will arise, however, when the Eagles host other teams or travel for road games.
“We’re not going to be able to keep this bubble forever, we know that,” Hafley said. “Things are going to get harder. That’s why we really have to form great habits. All the protocols that we have in place — wear a mask, constantly wash our hands, keep social distance — that’s why we have some things set up the way we do. And it will be harder. I totally get that. And I’m hoping our habits will carry us through.”
The Eagles call their on-campus environment the “BC Bubble.” Their daily schedules are busier than they since camp officially opened, but during the early stages, there was a lot of time to fill.
“Now that we’re in the swing of things with camp, we’re getting to work a lot of the day,” linebacker Max Richardson said. “We’re meeting, we’re going out to practice, we’re walking through, we’re getting our three meals in and we’re going back into meetings. However, when we first returned to campus, there was a lot of board games, a lot of video games, a lot of being alone in your room with just maybe one or two of your roommates watching movies, just trying to keep your mind off of what’s going on in the outside world. But as we’ve gotten back into the swing of things, I think it’s a little easier to stay focused because of the work that’s right in front of us.”
Richardson, who opted in January to return for a fifth year, has been a leader for the Eagles defense, but amid the pandemic, he’s seen the role take on a different meaning.
“I feel like the leadership role has evolved and it’s become a little bit more important but it is different,” Richardson said. “In the world we live in today, you’ve got to lead and do the right thing, social distance. You’ve got to talk about the right stuff. It’s not about just doing the right thing on the field, it’s about doing the right thing off the field as well.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.