Per ESPN, Diaz studied his team’s pre-pandemic spring practices and found that, in about 35 repetitions, no two offensive linemen were within six feet of each other for more than 3 minutes 22 seconds, and more than half of the players were within six feet for less than one minute total. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus guidelines recommend less than 15 minutes of exposure within six feet of another person.
While a functioning bubble to host all active college teams is not feasible, those numbers have emboldened Diaz’s stance that a fall season can happen if college football teams operate their own bubbles and those involved show self-control and limit whom they interact with outside of team facilities.
“There are people you’ve chosen to allow to get within six feet of you, whether that’s at work at ESPN or when you go home or when you go to the grocery store,” Diaz said Friday on “SportsCenter.” “We all have a bubble, and that bubble is who we allow in close contact with us without a mask. Now, certainly, we can think of the NBA bubble or going to Orlando and being completely isolated — we can’t do that. But we can determine who we allow into close contact with us, and for how long we allow them to be in close contact.”
At least three Hurricanes players tested positive for the coronavirus last month, prompting the team to cancel mandatory workouts. School president Julio Frenk told ESPN that there have been zero positive tests in the past three rounds of testing within the athletic program. With Miami set to kick off its season at home Sept. 10 against UAB, Diaz credited his players for being responsible inside and outside of the team facility.
“We always tell our guys, ‘We’re only as good as our next test,’ ” Diaz said. “We’ve had a good run now of negative tests, but it doesn’t matter. It takes one decision — it might be one member of the team — and we’ve got to keep coronavirus out of this building. You cannot catch coronavirus playing football, but you can catch it outside of this building and bring it into the building.”
Diaz has shared the data from his study of practice tape with coaches from around the ACC. Virginia Tech Coach Justin Fuente took notice and conducted his own study of a handful of Hokies practices from the fall of 2019.
Fuente said the results were on par with those of Miami, calling the amount of close contact “really minuscule” for players who play away from the football (wide receivers and defensive backs), with a marginal increase for those who play closer to the ball (offensive and defensive linemen).
“Obviously last fall we didn’t know anything about covid, so we weren’t taking any precautions,” Fuente said last week. “But what was the actual face-to-face, six-foot contact during fall camp for a given practice at particular positions? I was personally shocked at how low those numbers actually were. I think everybody thinks, me included, that football is just played in a big pile, and it wasn’t like that.”
In Annapolis, the Navy football team has taken its own precautions in its attempts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. New measures include replacing live tackling with dummies and pads, and suspending face-to-face interactions between offensive and defensive linemen during drills.
The Midshipmen haven’t left campus since arriving in early July and aren’t allowed to do so.
“It’s hard,” Navy slotback Myles Fells said. “This is not how you usually prepare for football. . . . You do what you’ve got to do to play.”
As the Midshipmen brace for their season opener Sept. 7 against BYU, their familiarity with sticking to a strict regimen will be crucial.
“We talk about being the most disciplined football team in the country,” Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We pride ourselves on being the most disciplined, the closest, the toughest. That’s where our focus has been: We have to stay disciplined.”
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