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Liberty’s ACC football opponents express concern over Flames’ COVID-19 testing protocols

Head coach Hugh Freeze said no Liberty football players have been tested in more than two weeks.
Published: Aug. 15, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The ACC remains one of three “Power Five” conferences planning to move forward with its football season, and three of the league’s teams have scheduled Liberty as their sole out-of-conference opponent: Syracuse, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.

But a comment made by Flames head coach Hugh Freeze at Friday’s virtual press conference is causing two of those opponents to raise public concerns.

“I think our team, we’ve gone over two weeks without even having to have a test because no one’s screened with any symptoms,” Freeze said on Friday. “Everyone’s out of quarantine, we haven’t had a positive in over three weeks, so with everything, we’re blessed right now.”

Freeze’s statement that no LU players have been tested in over two weeks, despite no players showing symptoms, did not appear to sit well with other programs on the Flames’ schedule.

Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack told ESPN Saturday, “Coach Freeze’s comments describing Liberty’s inadequate approach to COVID-19 testing are deeply troubling and pose a threat to the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. The ACC has very clear testing protocols in place that all scheduled non-conference opponents must adhere to.”

“Syracuse Athletics refuses to put the members of our football program or our campus community in a position that could potentially compromise the rigorous public health and safety strategy we have put into place.”

Similarly, an N.C. State spokesperson told the Raleigh News and Observer that “the ACC has clear testing protocols in place” and that N.C. State has “communicated those protocols and expectations with Liberty if this game is to occur.”

A Virginia Tech athletics spokesperson declined to comment publicly on any communications between the two schools.

The ACC’s return-to-play announcement said all non-conference opponents must meet the medical protocol requirements as agreed upon by the ACC.

LU also responded to the criticism today, saying the university is following CDC, Commonwealth of Virginia, local health district and campus guidelines and protocols.

The statement said, "Liberty has conducted PCR baseline testing for the entire football team bubble and will follow NCAA requirements for testing as well as meet the testing guidelines for competition established by each conference if those are above the NCAA standard."

LU also said it is screening athletes daily, and the program is contracting Radeas Labs in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which has other ACC clients, to process in-season testing.

“Our policy is we’re going to test on Wednesdays and who knows what could happen with us or the opponent,” said Freeze. “But we’ve got to try to manage our kids to stay in our ‘bubble’—our complex and their living quarters and our training table—the way we have it set up because I know it’s set up to protect them. They’re going to have to sacrifice some other things that are normal for a college student.”

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