Louisiana Tech has decided to pause football practice this week after five players tested positive for COVID-19.
Players were tested Thursday, the day before Tech opened preseason camp Friday morning. Guys who received positive tests will undergo a 10-day isolation period from the day of the positive test.
Additionally, 13 more players will have to quarantine 14 days from the day of contact with a teammate that tested positive after the program conducted contact tracing.
Tech was scheduled to hold its third practice of preseason camp Sunday morning.
Players that won’t have to sit out will continue weight lifting and conditioning in small groups, athletic department officials said.
Louisiana Tech has had 10 football players test positive for COVID-19 and had as many as 30 others spend time quarantined due to contact tracing since the NCAA has allowed teams to return to campus for voluntary workouts back at the beginning of June. Bulldogs head football coach Skip Holtz told The News-Star earlier this week that one player on his team missed up to 50 days during voluntary and the summer session workouts due to the coronavirus.
Holtz told The News-Star prior to fall camp while everyone in the program before Thursday’s screening had received negative results all the while the team would open fall camp amid a bevy of unknowns and uncertainties that the athletic department and his football program were aiming to be adaptable.
“Once a player shows any symptoms, he’s taken out,” Holtz said. “Any at all, he’s taken out until he’s tested. That’s always been in place. How often do we test during camp, during the season? Will it be once a week? We’re waiting to find out what that’s going to be. Each school determines how much they’ll test during camp. Everyone in our program has tested negative for the virus. But it’s one more step in the safety, security and comfort level of our players. We’re going to test all of our guys (Thursday) before camp starts. Going forward, then the week of the first game, we decide to test and 30 guys have it, those guys will be out.
“We’re trying to be smart about when we test but we don’t know at this point. I think that’ll be predicated on what this first test looks like. If we have one player test positive, we might test one more time during camp. But if we have 10 guys test positive, we might test next week. It’s a fluid situation and it’s changing. We’re trying to adapt and do everything we can for the safety of our players and coaches and everyone associated with the program. While we do that, we’re going to try to play some football.”
One of Holtz’s main concerns, he said, were having a player tests positive for coronavirus and what effect contact tracing would have on practice.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to eliminate what we can,” Holtz said. “How long can we go against each other before it’s contact tracing? We have to learn all the rules and how to avoid breaking them. Before (fall camp), contact tracing was about how you stay six feet apart and talk for 15 minutes with no mask. But how about back up when you’re talking to someone? Don’t hang out with someone for a period longer than 15 minutes. Will protective faceguards eliminate contact tracing? All of those kinds of things. But we have to make sure our kids can breathe while they play the game.”
The cancellation of its season opener at UNLV Sept. 5, and as it stands playing its first game Sept. 12 at Southern Miss, allows Tech some flexibility with its practice schedule, and according to Malcolm Butler, Louisiana Tech’s Associate Athletic Director for Athletic Communications, that’s gave the football program leeway to pause practice this week.