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UVa football: Mendenhall staying positive about the possibility of football this fall

UVa football: Mendenhall staying positive about the possibility of football this fall

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If there has been pessimism coming from some quarters on the likelihood of there being a college football season in 2020, don’t look at Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

“We still have to anticipate and prepare as if we’re opening on time,” Mendenhall said Monday of a Labor Day night game against Georgia scheduled for Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It might be like a special-forces unit, training and preparing and ready to get a green light to be called on a mission. The best thing I can do is act ‘as if’ we’re going to play in our opener. Anything that happens after that, we’ll adjust.”

Various scheduling agendas have been proposed, including a conference-only schedule.

“I am in favor of it,” Mendenhall said. “By playing teams only in our region [and] only in our conference, we have a better chance to have standardized protocols in terms of testing.

“We have a better chance of controlling that in conference than out of conference. It gives our student-athletes the best chance to be safe.”

Mendenhall is opposed to playing a schedule with anything fewer than eight games, mostly because of the emotional toll it would take on the UVa players.

“They want to be together, they love each other and they want to play,” Mendenhall said. “Under these unique circumstances, wearing the masks and doing all that, they’re having a blast together.

“I’m loving that part of it, but anything less than eight [games], I think would be inappropriate to ask them. That’s a minimum turnoff I have internally, based on my own threshold and nobody else’s.”

After the football players started returning to UVa’s grounds on July 5, they were tested for the coronavirus. Two players out of 110 tested positive.

“Even numbers that are being reported, I don’t think are being tested the same way,” Mendenhall said of comparisons to other programs. “I think there’s a lot of variance.

“I can’t say we’re doing everything, but we’re doing everything we know how to do. When you consider a group of young people that we haven’t seen since they left for spring break and then they report with those numbers, that’s a strong testament to the power of individual choice.

“Now that we’re back, we have another challenge … because they’re closer together, we’re training, we’re sweating, we’re breathing on each other. We’re social distancing, we’re wearing masks and doing everything we can.”

In a conference call that lasted more than 30 minutes, there was little or no talk of personnel or strategy or other aspects of the UVa football operation.

What seemed to bother Mendenhall more than anything was the possibility that other teams might not follow a similar protocol and put Virginia or another opponent at risk.

Clearly time is running short on a decision to put together a revised schedule.

“I think that anything longer than the end of July would be really challenging, especially if we’re talking about beginning on time,” Mendenhall said. “That’s the tentative time frame I have in mind, knowing that I’m not the one to decide.”

He said he speaks to UVa athletic director Carla Williams almost daily.

“She’s given a couple of great quotes that I’ve used with my team but also my family,” Mendenhall said. “So, for these players, we’re asking to act as if everyone we come in contact with has the virus.

“I believe [another] quote was, ‘The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.’ ”

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Doug Doughty is in his 44th year at the Roanoke Times, having produced an estimated 10,000 by-lines, a majority of them on University of Virginia athletics.

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