Tech postpones season opening football game

A "pause" of at least four days is also now in place for the university's football team.
Hendon Hooker of the Virginia Tech Hokies rushes past Heskin Smith of the Virginia Cavaliers to score a touchdown in the second half during a game at Scott Stadium in 2019 in Charlottesville. (Photo/Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

Virginia Tech is postponing its football season opener against Virginia and put a four-day pause on practice.

“The safety, as well as the physical and mental well-being of these young men and women entrusted to our care by their families remains our top priority,” Tech athletic director Whit Babcock announced. “While we share the disappointment of everyone who hoped to begin the football season against our in-state rival, we remain optimistic that a full ACC football schedule can be played thanks to the flexibility the present format permits. Despite this delay, our schedule still aligns closely with the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 football timelines.”

The postponement is the second delay in a season opener for Tech. The original first game of the season, set for Sept. 12 against NC State, was pushed back two weeks because of coronavirus outbreak on its campus.

The delay come as Montgomery County, which includes Tech’s Blacksburg home, reported 130 more new infections of the virus in Saturday’s report from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

Tech coach Justin Fuente admits he wasn’t sure his team would have been ready to play the NC State game in this pandemic.

“I don’t know if we could, to be honest with you,” Fuente told The Roanoke Times. “I don’t know if we’d have made it. I figured somebody would ask me, could we play today in this deal? And I’m going to tell you, I did everything in my power to construct a practice that we got good out of today with the guys that we have. So I mean I guess the answer to your question more directly would be glad, yeah, I’m glad we’re not playing.”

In a new statement issued after delay of the game against Virginia, Fuente adds:

My primary concern continues to be the well-being of the student-athletes on our football team. I hurt for them because I know how badly they want to compete. I also appreciate that these young men have been dealing with the same stress, uncertainty and anxiety as their fellow Virginia Tech students over the past few months as their spring semester was dramatically altered. Then they were forced to find a way to train on their own, and to their credit, they found a way to get it done.

–Justin Fuente

The university won’t reveal exactly how many cases of the virus affects student athletes but Blacksburg’s zip code shows more than 700 new cases in the last six months with an average of 60 or so cases a day. The university COVID-19 dashboard shows 633 cases and 139 students in isolation.

While James Madison University in Harrisonburg shot down its campus classes and started sending students home last weekend, Tech president Tim Sands says his campus remains open.

“I won’t say categorically that we won’t change direction, but, to be perfectly honest, I think what we’re learning is that going remote wouldn’t help that much,” The Times reports Sands told students at an hour-long virtual town hall meeting.

“It might make a little difference, but probably not enough to justify the hassle of it, and depopulating residence halls, for example, we already know that’s not a good idea … in terms of, if you look at it holistically, and what you can do to spread the disease outside the community.”

We’ve talked with several parents of students at Tech, and they universally express concern about the stubbornness of Sands.

Parents of two students said Friday they are pulling their offspring out of the university for the current term and are seeking refunds of tuition and other costs.

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