As Virginia’s football season opener with Virginia Tech grows closer, Cavaliers’ head coach Bronco Mendenhall offered some unexpected news on the scheduling front.
At this point, he wants to stand pat, but there are others who would like him to change that stance.
The Cavaliers’ schedule was reduced from 11 to 10 games when prospective opening-game opponent VMI opted not to play any fall games after the Southern Conference announced it was moving its conference season to the spring.
“I would prefer it remain that way because I think 10 is safer than 11 in terms of games, which is just a matter-of-fact statement,” Mendenhall said.
“It’s been made pretty clear to me that the ACC would like us to have a plus-one, so there are options being pursued. We could announce a plus-one and that’s in the works.”
When Mendenhall was asked about the Cavaliers’ current season-opening opponent, Virginia Tech, and its COVID-19 issues expressed Wednesday by coach Justin Fuente, the UVa coach did not say anything about Tech, but did offer his team’s side of the issue, which every football team planning to play this fall is dealing with in some manner.
“Our numbers are absolutely exceptional at this point,” Mendenhall said.
He referred to what he called “Chapter 1” — the period when the whole team was in a dorm, took their meals from a tent and brought them back to the dorm.
“Really, there weren’t any cases tied to players returning to Charlottesville. All the way to today, there’s nothing, which is extraordinary. We started seeing them coming back three weeks ago, most of them living off grounds.
“That hasn’t changed our numbers yet either. Now, the on-grounds students are coming back and what the national landscape is showing is that’s causing significant spikes everywhere.”
The Hokies and Cavaliers are scheduled to meet Sept. 19 in Blacksburg. Mendenhall said UVa prep for that game would begin in the middle of next week.
“That’s our typical model that has served us for a long time,” Mendenhall said.
Elsewhere with the Cavs, Mendenhall said that four UVa players have opted out for the 2020 football season due to coronavirus pandemic concerns: Junior defensive lineman Aaron Faumui, sophomore running back Mike Hollins, sophomore defensive back Tenyeh Dixon and redshirt freshman wide receiver Dorien Goddard.
For a player like Goddard, who already has been redshirted, the NCAA will allow a second redshirt year as a result of COVID-19.
Redshirt freshman Ben Smiley, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive lineman, experienced some uncertainty before returning to the team.
“He has some initial quarantine work to do,” Mendenhall said, “but we’re thrilled about that.”