Justin Fuente spoke to the media on Monday for the first time since the Hokies decided to shut down the football program for four days and postpone the season opener against Virginia.
“We could see the disappointment with our players when the Virginia game was postponed,” Fuente said. “I know our fans were disappointed; it’s just one of those things that we’re dealing with.”
The Virginia game is expected to be made up at some point later in the season, but no date has been announced yet.
The Hokies decided to postpone the game over the weekend when leadership realized that they could not meet the minimum roster requirements stated by the ACC.
“I was concerned about it, but it wasn’t until about the very end that we realized this was not safe,” Fuente said. “This had nothing to do with competitive advantage. I called Bronco [Mendenhall] on Saturday and told him, ‘There is no way we can safely put our kids on the field.’”
As always, tensions rise when the Commonwealth Cup is on the line, which was seen through interactions on Twitter Saturday between players and fans from both programs. However, despite the fire from both sides, this year’s clash will have to wait at least a few months.
“Our guys want to go play, they were crushed,” Fuente said. “They believe they can go play without very many guys, but sometimes it’s our job to protect those guys from themselves, and that’s what [Dr. Rogers did] … in my opinion, it wasn’t even close.”
The start of Virginia Tech’s season has now been pushed back twice since the ACC’s conference-only schedule was released.
NC State was in a similar situation to the Hokies three weeks ago as the university had to shut down all athletic activities and push their week one showdown back to Sept 26. After this most recent postponement, that game is once again expected to be Tech’s first game of the season.
“We had this happen to us before with NC State, and with the full understanding that the shoe could be on the other foot, and it was,” Fuente said. “We’ll do our best to keep moving forward.”
The Hokies will turn their attention to trying to be ready for that game, in terms of preparation and health. However, those efforts won’t begin until at least Wednesday when the team will determine if they can resume practice.
“We’ll find a way to get prepared for the game,” Fuente said. “I’ll make a schedule, and we’ll just kind of play it by ear.”
Fuente says the team was tested Monday and will get another test on Wednesday. These results will carry a lot of weight as to whether the Hokies will suit up in two weeks.
“[It’s going to be about] availability and where we’re at from both the quarantine side and others who were identified through contact tracing,” Fuente said. “It’ll be a numbers situation as we go.”
Making things more difficult are the ACC’s protocols on when players can be released from quarantine due to either a positive test or contact tracing.
“It’s not going to be, on Wednesday, everybody is good,” Fuente said. “All those kids have different timetables; some guys have a chance to get out next Wednesday, some on Tuesday, some on Thursday, it’s all over the place.”
The cases began to rise on the football team as cases began to rise on campus. Fuente said that the team was “knocking it out of the park” when it comes to dealing with COVID-19 until students came back on campus and outbreaks began.
“[COVID-19] is on our minds and weighs on us 24 hours, seven days a week,” Fuente said. “If you test three times a week, you’re three taps on the shoulder away from not being able to play because you’re around a person in a particular setting.”
With so much up in the air, it continues to be a waiting game for Virginia Tech football. As of now, the hope is that the Hokies will meet the Wolfpack in just under two weeks.
“I don’t feel comfortable raising the alarm or putting the fire out in terms of the NC State game,” Fuente said. “I just don’t know enough right now about how things are going and where we’re at.”