Will CAA Football games unable to be played because of positive COVID-19 tests be classified as postponements with makeup dates, no-contests, or forfeits?
That’s to be determined, according to the league’s commissioner, Joe D’Antonio. A policy will be established soon, he added. Most CAA teams start games in early September.
He addressed the issue Tuesday, when CAA Football held its virtual media day. D’Antonio recognized a fresh start for a new season but also “the reality that we’re still not as a society done dealing with the effects of COVID, but likely we’re unfortunately far from it.”
The CAA will work with its school physicians and others to establish protocols that provide “as safe an environment as we can provide,” D’Antonio said. He anticipates that the league will have testing parameters for unvaccinated individuals involved with the CAA’s 12-team roster that include James Madison, William & Mary and Richmond, and also guidelines in place for vaccinated individuals.
Upcoming meetings among athletics directors at CAA Football schools will help formulate complete league directives regarding COVID-19 issues, D’Antonio indicated.
D’Antonio advised that questions related to the vaccination percentage of each league team be addressed by representatives of the schools but added that “from what I’ve heard in conversations I’ve been involved in, I anticipate that as we move to the start of the regular season, both within our football conference as well as our full-member conference, we will have a very high number of student-athletes that are indeed vaccinated.”
At JMU, the spring season was riddled with schedule changes forced by COVID-19 issues. The Dukes went three weeks between games in March because of issues within their program, and three weeks between games into the middle of April, because of issues at slated opponents Richmond and Elon.
But as the league finalizes its COVID-19 protocols for the fall season, JMU coach Curt Cignetti said Tuesday that the vaccination rate in his program is in the 98-99% range.
“Fortunately, we’re almost at 100% vaccination rate right now,” Cignetti said. “So we don’t have too much to worry about. It was strictly an education process. I mean, the educated thing to do is to take the vaccination. I think our guys understood that. And we’ve had great success from the get-go.”
UR coach Russ Huesman said that more than 90% of Spiders players have been vaccinated. At W&M, coach Mike London said among Tribe players “only a few, a handful of our players, that for their reasons that have not. We continue to keep educating and talk about things and the possibilities may increase those numbers as well.”
D’Antonio said the league learned quite a bit in the management and implementation of testing protocols in the spring. Some aspects will stick around in the fall and some will not.
“Because I do think, as a society, we are in a different spot,” D’Antonio said. “Right now, let’s hope that we’re not returning to where we were a year ago. And I’d like to think a higher level of vaccination is helping with that.”
In particular, D’Antonio believes that a testing protocol as it relates to unvaccinated players likely will mirror portions of the spring protocols.
An example is that D’Antonio anticipates that schools will need to continue to submit attestation forms to the league office before games, affirming they’ve met all testing protocols.
“I can’t stress enough, there’s nothing more important to what we do than the safety of our student-athletes, coaches and administrators,” D’Antonio said. “A game’s a game. Somebody’s life is somebody’s life. And we’re never going to take risks with those types of decisions.”