Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Virginia Tech DB Caleb Farley says concerns over program adhering to COVID-19 protocols led to opt out

Virginia Tech defensive back Caleb Farley became the first high-profile college football player to opt out of the 2020 season when he announced his plans last week. Farley penned a column to Peter King’s Football Morning In America on Monday detailing the decision and specific concerns he had with how Virginia Tech is handling its offseason workouts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year at Virginia Tech, at our workouts, I started having deep concerns about staying healthy,” he wrote. “Guys were going home, going to Myrtle Beach, coming back to campus, and we weren’t getting tested. We’re all together, working out, close to each other, and you have no real idea who might have it, if anybody might have it. One day I looked around, and we were like 100-deep in our indoor facility, no masks. My concern grew more and more.”

Farley, a redshirt junior who is widely regarded as one of the top defensive backs eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft, specified that his concern centered around his father.

“I started being really conflicted about playing,” he wrote. “What this came down to is, I lost one parent. My dad is so important to me. Growing old with him means so much to me, more than football. I don’t know what I would do if I contracted it and gave it to him, and he passed. I couldn’t live with that. Part of me thought, I put all my eggs into this basket since I was six years old . . . just suck it up and play. Try to stay safe. But I couldn’t ignore all the doubts in my head.”

His decision is another sign of the growing COVID-19 concern among college football players. Hundreds of Pac-12 players issued a statement on Sunday saying that they will boycott the season if multiple demands aren’t met. The health-related demands in the #WeAreUnited movement include keeping their eligibility and scholarship if they choose to opt out of the season and “player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third-party selected by the players” to address health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia Tech said that coach Justin Fuente “will decline the opportunity to address Caleb’s comments directly.” However, the university issued the following statement from Dr. Mark Rogers, the Chief Medical Officer for Virginia Tech Athletics, which does not directly respond to Farley’s accusations:   

“The health and welfare of our student-athletes and staff, as well as the Virginia Tech and surrounding communities continues to be our foremost priority. All Virginia Tech student-athletes are tested for COVID-19 and screened before being cleared to participate in any athletic activities. In addition, follow-up testing protocols are performed on a regular basis in accordance with Centers for Disease Control, ACC and NCAA recommendations. 
“In addition, daily screening protocols and monitoring measures are in place in accordance with the standards established by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Montgomery County public health officials. An abundance of caution continues to be utilized to ensure all equipment and facilities are sanitized and cleaned appropriately.
“Student-athletes and staff have been issued personal protective equipment to wear in indoor areas. The Beamer-Lawson Practice Facility continues to be utilized in an open-air configuration in accordance with health department guidelines. As another safety precaution, all staff members have been issued additional personal protective equipment to wear during workouts and practices. In conjunction with Mike Goforth and Tech’s Sports Medicine team, we will continue to follow the latest guidance from Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the CDC.” 

Farley had defended 16 passes, broke up 12 and picked off four last season, returning one for a touchdown. His 16 defended pass led the ACC and his four picks tied for second in the conference behind Syracuse’s Andre Cisco (5). Farley missed the final two games of the season with back spasms.

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