EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Four players on the University of Texas at El Paso football team tested positive for COVID-19 just as the team was about to begin fall practices Sunday.
Director of Athletics, Jim Senter, and head football coach Dana Dimel said the start of UTEP’s preseason football practice is postponed until a later date.
“It was important to us that we tested everybody before beginning contact drills. We have protocols in place and we are following them. We are testing and the testing is doing what it was intended to do – identify asymptomatic individuals who are positive. We are doing everything that we can to mitigate the spread of the disease. While we have to put our entire team in quarantine for five days, the safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is the top priority,” said Senter.
The student-athletes were all asymptomatic, according to UTEP. The athletes and their roommates will now go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine retroactive to Saturday, August 8.
The rest of the UTEP football team, including athletes, coaches, and staff, entered a five-day quarantine retroactive to Saturday, August 8, at the recommendation of team medical personnel. The team will be retested this Wednesday, August 12.
“I am fully supportive of the recommendations of our Sports Medicine personnel and team doctors. We can’t wait to resume preparations for our fall season, but safety comes first,” Dimel said.
Once results are received from the retest on Wednesday, a determination will be made on when practices will begin.
The Larry K. Durham Sports Center, which houses the athletic training room, football locker room, strength and conditioning center, and football coaches’ offices, will be closed for extensive cleaning on Monday, August 10.
The Miners’ soccer and volleyball teams are still continuing workouts.
A UTEP spokesperson told KTSM that no football players have opted out of the 2020 season thus far; that is a growing trend around college football that has found its way to the Borderland after three New Mexico State players opted out over the last two weeks.
UTEP is currently officially scheduled to open the 2020 season at Texas on Sept. 19, but the Miners have said they will be finalizing their schedule this week. The Austin American-Statesman reported last week that the UTEP-Texas showdown has been moved up one week to Sept. 12.
However, all of that could be in flux after a Sports Illustrated report on Sunday, stating that the Power 5 conferences are meeting this week with the possibility of canceling fall sports fully on the table.
Additionally, ESPN is reporting that the commissioners for all of the Power 5 conferences met on a conference call on Sunday to discuss the fall sports season. According to the report, the majority of the Big Ten’s presidents would vote to postpone the season.
A UTEP football player, who spoke to KTSM on the condition of anonymity, said that he is hoping the season gets pushed to the spring.
“We should be safe,” the player said. “Yes, the university needs the money from games, but our safety is more important.”
UTEP’s game against Texas would supply the Miners’ athletic department with $1.4 million. As of now, UTEP has not officially said if it will host fans at games if the season happens, but Senter told KTSM in July that he would like to have fans if it was safe and the virus allowed it.