As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Nevada Athletics has extended and modified their safety guidelines and testing protocol for athletes, coaches and staff members as they prepare to return to play during the spring semester.
Last semester, every fall sport with the exception of football and men’s and women’s basketball were postponed until the spring. Now, they will be able to have their season, along with the spring sports. Since the football team had their season, they will be going through their off-season practices this spring.
According to Athletic Director Doug Knuth, the program expects every postponed and regularly-scheduled sport to compete this semester.
“Every single team will be either working out, practicing and preparing for their season or will be in season like men’s and women’s basketball and track are right now,” Knuth said.
Most teams are competing in the Mountain West conference-only format seen during the 2020 football season. Normally, teams would play against non-conference schools in addition to their conference schedule. This change means the seasons will be shorter and have less travel.
In the fall, the athletic program followed the testing guidelines set by the Mountain West Conference. In the winter and spring, they transitioned to their own testing protocol.
Nevada Athletics’ testing protocol requires athletes and staff to test negative through the antigen test, also known as the rapid test, in order to participate in an event. If the test comes back positive, a PCR test is done for confirmation.
According to the CDC, rapid tests are reasonably accurate, but the PCR test is seen as the golden standard with higher accuracy.
Risk evaluation is also a factor in testing, Knuth said. Higher contact sports will be tested three times a week and lower contact sports will be tested once a week.
Sports that are seen as higher risk are those played inside and where players are in close proximity, such as basketball and volleyball. Lower risk sports like those played outside include golf, cross country, and tennis.
“We follow all of the CDC recommendations with hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing,” Knuth said. “On top of that, we have the Mountain West rules related to hosting games and competitions, and we have department and university rules for bus, plane and car travel. There’s a lot of layers to it.”
Student athletes and staff are expected to follow the set guidelines, and discipline will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
“We want everyone to follow the CDC guidelines and the rules, and if our athletes, coaches or staff do not follow them, we will have to have a conversation with them and get them to understand why this is so important,” Knuth said.
Knuth knows there could be people who decide not to follow the rules due to personal choice, and if they do not comply, their eligibility could be in question. According to Knuth, this hasn’t been an issue yet.
“We’re not going to put other people, their teammates, coaches and our staff at risk if they do not want to comply,” Knuth said.
Knuth said the virus has shown the strength of their athletes and that their protocols and guidelines appear to be working.
“We’ve had a few cases where we’ve had some positive tests,” he said. “Through most of it we didn’t have a lot of spread around the teams or departments, so I think our protocols have been good and we will continue along that path.”
So far, men’s and women’s basketball have endured a flurry of game postponements and cancellations because of coronavirus contact tracing protocols and virus concerns on the Nevada side and opposing teams. All other sports have been able to compete without many issues.
Madeleine Chinery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mchinery6