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Atlantic Coast Conference Announces Plans For Fall Schedule, Safety In Light Of COVID-19 Pandemic

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 ACC Championship Game Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a number of conferences announced plans for fall competition—whether it be delayed start up to postponement, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced plans of its own for play in the fall semester.

For football, play will start the week of Sept. 7-12. All conference members, including Notre Dame temporarily will play an eleven game schedule, with ten games in conference and one out of conference game either played at home or against an in-state opponent, leaving open the opportunity to maintain ACC-SEC rivalries like Georgia-Georgia Tech and Clemson-South Carolina. BC is slated to play Georgia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh at home, Clemson, Duke, Syracuse, Virginia and Virginia Tech on the road, with dates and TV to be determined.

The conference will play as one division on a thirteen week schedule leaving open two weeks per program. The top two teams (including Notre Dame) in terms of winning percentage will advance to the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, to be played either Dec. 12 or 19.

For Olympic Sports, play will start Sept. 10. The conference schedule will meet the mandatory sponsorship minimums as set by the NCAA, six contests for field hockey and both soccers, and 10 games for volleyball. Cross country will be set at the member’s discretion. Programs may play additional games at the programs’ discretion.

All member programs are expected to follow the guidance of the conference’s Medical Advisory Group, which consists of doctors representing all member institutions. For football, all players and people close to the teams will be tested each week no more than three days before the day of competition. Additional testing will be considered acceptable so long as the three day timeline is not threatened. For other high risk sports, deemed to be volleyball, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling and rowing, players and people close to the programs will be tested at least once a week starting with the first week of competition. Medium risk sports such as baseball, softball and cross country will be tested every week no more than three days before the first scheduled contest. Low risk sports such as golf, tennis, fencing, track and field and swimming and diving will not have regular testing but will follow the guidelines of medical professionals.

Institutions will also be expected to comply with contact tracing protocols established by local boards of health, and positive cases will be isolated for at least 10 days and at least one day after the subsiding of fever and an improvement of respiratory symptoms. Student-athletes who recover will not be subject to testing for 90 days unless symptoms return.

Programs will also be forced to disclose any test results when there was close contact with an opposing player. The role on the team (such as position) and interactions with opposing team will be included, but names will not be unless authorized by the individual or required by law.

Coaches and players who are in the bench area will be expected to wear a mask, save for players who are required to wear a helmet. The conference also announced that they are developing a face shield for football players to use.

The conference also noted, notably in light of the recent cancellations in MLB, considerations for game discontinuation. If there is an inability to isolate new positive cases, an inability to do surveillance along testing, campus-wide or local community transmission rates are deemed unsafe, an inability to do proper contact tracing, or if local public health officials deem hospital infrastructure inadequate to withstand an surge in COVID-related hospitalizations, discontinuations will be considered.

The committee noted that protection of teams and maintenance of mental health of student-athletes are priorities moving forward.