Schools debate whether to detail positive tests for athletes

2017 college football Top 25: Preseason rankings
Posted at 8:26 PM, Jun 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-14 21:26:45-04

Over the past two weeks, as college athletes have returned to campuses to work out and prepare for sports later this year, a handful of them have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Arkansas State. Houston. Boise State. Iowa State. Oklahoma State. More than a dozen schools in all.

Just how many positive tests isn’t known, however, because college officials are debating exactly what to tell the public. Nearly half the 66 Football Bowl Subdivision members that responded to an Associated Press inquiry last week said they were still deciding whether to disclose the number of athletes with positive tests — and just over half aren’t going to release numbers at all.

“That’s a real challenge,” Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch said. “A lot of us in the profession are trying to work through that. That’s why I think you’ve seen quite a bit of inconsistency across the country in terms of what’s been announced and what hasn’t.”

The inconsistency has been apparent since football players began returning to campus this month for voluntary workouts. Auburn confirmed three players had tested positive; a few days later, rival Alabama declined to confirm reports that as many as eight were positive, citing privacy laws. Boise State said only that a number of athletes had tested positive without providing details.

Arkansas State announced June 4 that seven athletes from three different sports had tested positive for COVID-19 and were self-isolating for 14 days.

“We would have made the same kind of announcement if it had not involved student athletes,” Arkansas State chancellor Kelly Damphousse said in a statement. “Our announcement reinforced the message that our governor had recently shared: Young people are not immune to COVID-19 and you may be infected without realizing it. ... To be transparent, we felt comfortable in acknowledging these positive tests came from our returning student-athletes, as they were the only students who were being tested that week.”

Other schools weren’t as transparent. They’re disclosing the number of positive tests only to public health officials. Syracuse is one of the schools in that group.

“We’re going to do everything we can to respect and protect the privacy rights of our student-athletes while at the same time understanding your colleagues, this is a news item for you, and we’re trying to arrive at the right space and the right way to do both,” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said.