The coronavirus pandemic has already shaken up the NCAA in more ways than one, and recent news out of Virginia suggests those changes aren't slowing down any time soon.
The 'Hoos were originally set to face off with Georgia to start the season, that was scrapped. VMI was then marked as Virginia's opening opponent, giving the Cavaliers a nonconference opener on September 11 to go along with its 10-game ACC slate. That has now changed as well, head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Friday.
“The latest I’ve heard is it’s likely we will not replace VMI,” Mendenhall said. “That’s the latest I’ve heard and so that then would lead to an opening game versus Virginia Tech."
"Again, it’s not definitive yet. Latest I’ve heard though is that’s the direction we’re headed.”
Commonwealth Cup to start the season? Talk about all in for week one.
The Southern Conference announced a postponement of all fall conference competition back on August 13. Programs were given the option to schedule nonconference games, however, VMI opted out of the week one matchup.
Regardless of who Virginia plays in the season opener, if they do play, coach Mendenhall has bigger concerns prior to reaching that point — player safety.
The football team established a bubble of their own this summer, limiting their exposure to COVID-19 through regulations within their residence halls. More importantly, it worked relatively well.
Virginia athletes began returning to campus the first week in July. Since their return 1,400 tests have been administered, with just four positive results — three among the 117 football players tested.
Things get even trickier when In-person classes at Virginia begin on September 8, with housing move-ins starting on September 3 — just 10 days from today.
“That is what I’m losing sleep over right now,” Mendenhall said. “We’ve been staying in the same dorm as a football team, eating all our meals in our rooms and really have almost complete isolation from the outside world in our bubble. Our players are getting ready to move off grounds and the students are coming and some of our classes will be in person. And so, by that very design, the bubble is broken.”
“It’s gone from kind of a collective effort to, now it’s going to be much more individualized,” Mendenhall said. “That will take a higher level of commitment that we’re talking about at least every day if not multiple times a day.”