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Wachenheim excited VMI still on Virginia's football schedule

Wachenheim excited VMI still on Virginia's football schedule

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VMI turned out to be The Chosen One.

Virginia announced Thursday it has kept VMI on its football schedule as its lone nonleague foe this season.

“It’s awesome,” VMI coach Scott Wachenheim said in a phone interview. “It’s a great opportunity for our young men.

“It’s very exciting.”

The Keydets will visit UVa on Sept. 11, which is a Friday. That is one day earlier than the teams were originally scheduled to play.

But if VMI is to play football this season, it will have to foot the bill to give its players COVID-19 tests each week it has a game.

The NCAA Board of Governors announced Wednesday that any team in any sport wanting to have a regular season this fall must comply with the in-season testing guidelines the NCAA issued last month.

The SoCon announced Thursday in a news release that “various options are being explored to evaluate the feasibility of a safe and successful return to competition.”

“Our position right now is that we intend on playing fall sports,” SoCon commissioner Jim Schaus said Thursday in a phone interview. “We are in the process of evaluating this new [testing] information and finalizing a plan of exactly how we’ll implement that. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”

The NCAA had recommended last month that testing and results should be obtained by schools within 72 hours of a football game kicking off and within 72 hours of the first game of the week for other “high contact risk sports,” including soccer and volleyball.

Those are no longer mere recommendations.

“Anybody, any school, any conference that decides to move forward, … they have to meet very clear, very rigid protocol,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday on the “Today” show. “They’re mandatory. They’re not guidelines any longer.”

Can SoCon schools afford to test their fall athletes each week during the season?

“With this change to a requirement, that’s a very important adjustment and ones that our institutions right now are evaluating and researching and trying to identify how they can meet those new standards,” Schaus said.

“There’s a lot of pieces to it. Some of it’s … the availability to get results inside that 72-hour window; that’s important. Cost is a factor.”

SoCon presidents and athletic directors will continue their talks next week.

“We don’t have a formalized plan as to exactly where we’re going to be with fall sports,” Schaus said. “We want to take all the time necessary to make sure … we have all the information and will be able to meet guidelines, to be able to identify how we would implement our schedule … or when those various sports would begin.”

The VMI game would serve as UVa’s season opener. VMI is scheduled to open at Robert Morris on Sept. 5.

The ACC announced on July 29 a new scheduling model that calls for each of its football teams to play 10 conference games plus just one nonleague game. So VMI had been waiting to see if UVa still wanted to play the Keydets.

UVa’s original schedule had four nonleague games, including a Sept. 5 neutral-site game in Atlanta with Southeastern Conference member Georgia, whose league scrapped nonconference games last week; the VMI game; a Sept. 19 home game with Connecticut, which canceled its season Wednesday; and an Oct. 24 game at Old Dominion.

Wachenheim said VMI athletic director Dave Diles informed him Wednesday that “the deal was in the works” for VMI to stay on the UVa schedule.

ACC teams’ schedules were announced Thursday morning.

“This morning when I got up and saw it on Twitter, I said, ‘Wow, maybe it got finalized,’ ” Wachenheim said. “I’m … thankful for the hard work of Dr. Diles to get it done. It wasn’t easy.”

VMI was not the only school from the commonwealth to remain on an ACC team’s schedule. FBS independent Liberty will be the lone nonleague foe for Virginia Tech, Syracuse and North Carolina State.

UVa’s decision means VMI still gets a nice payday.

FCS member VMI, which last played the Cavaliers in 2013, is due to reap $375,000 from UVa for the game.

“The money helps everybody [in the athletic department], so that’s exciting,” Wachenheim said.

SoCon schools are still waiting to find out if the season will culminate in the FCS playoffs.

The NCAA Board of Governors announced Wednesday morning that it would let each NCAA division decide how to handle its NCAA fall sports championships. Division I has until Aug. 21 to make its decision. Divisions II and III canceled their fall championships Wednesday afternoon.

The board also announced Wednesday a requirement for NCAA playoffs to be held this fall. At least 50% of the teams in a given sport in a given division must still plan to play the regular season this fall for that particular NCAA tournament to be held this fall.

Entering Thursday, six of the 13 FCS conferences had already suspended their football seasons, with hopes of playing next spring.

“That new [50%] criteria is certainly something to keep an eye on,” Schaus said. “There may be further developments with different conferences that could impact that, but for now we’re intending on playing fall sports.”

If the 50% threshold does not end up being met this month and the FCS playoffs move to next spring, would the SoCon move its football season to the spring?

“Different options, whether fall or spring, have been part of our discussions,” Schaus said. “It’s really premature to talk about what might happen.”

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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