BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said he takes the impact of the coronavirus pandemic personally and that he supports team medical experts who say it was the “exact right call” to postpone the Hokies’ scheduled upcoming game against Virginia.
The Hokies pulled out of their season-opener against Virginia on Friday, the week before the scheduled matchup with their instate rival, because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the football team. Team doctors suggested “it wasn’t even close” if the team could play, Fuente said on a Zoom call on Monday. No makeup date has been announced.
“Our kids were incredibly disappointed,” Fuente said. “I know they’ve taken, they and I probably, quite a bit of flack from it, but the bottom line is it was the exact right call.”
Coaches typically take the blame for poor on-field performances by their team, and Fuente seems to be trying to do that in this situation — or at least defending his players as they try to stay virus-free while on campus with a Virginia Tech student body that returned Aug. 24.
The school is employing a hybrid approach to classes, with some in-person and some online. The university has not said how many students are back on campus. And officials also have not released football-specific testing numbers, but the school’s web site reported a total of 711 positive COVID-19 test results since testing began five weeks ago.
“I take it personal, absolutely, because I see here every day the emphasis our coaches have on it,” Fuente said of avoiding the virus. “I see what our players are doing. I’m not with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but I see how important it is to them.”
“They fully understand. They’re all here because they’ve chosen to be here. They’ve all been given a free pass out. ... They’re all here because they want to do this.”
“We’re not going to stop addressing it, I can tell you that much,” Fuente said. ”You all can imagine, it’s on our minds and weighs on us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“You’re always -- if you test three times a week — you’re three taps on the shoulder away from not being able to play either because you are around a person in a particular setting or because you were positive. So the mental stress and the emotional stress, it’s on all of us all the time about this,” he said.
The coach said there are more questions swirling about about the situation than answers.
“I don’t know who we have back right now or who we will have back tomorrow,” he said. “We haven’t had that meeting yet. It’s not going to be on Wednesday, everybody’s good. Now you get a week and a half to prepare, That’s not how this works.”