Photo Credit: Jake Roth
Earlier today, Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock addressed the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors Executive Committee at their meeting today to provide an update on athletic planning for the fall. Here's a look at some of the most notable things he said.
Babcock Remains Confident in Tech's Protocols
As Whit Babcock told the media recently, he reiterated that he is very confident in the protocols that Virginia Tech has implemented and would "sleep well at night" if his son, a football player at William & Mary, was an athlete at Virginia Tech.
Babcock: "I would certainly put him (his son) in our protocol and sleep well at night." This is almost identical to the confidence Babcock showed in a recent press conference #Hokies— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) August 13, 2020
That comment is almost identical to what Babcock told the media recently about his confidence in Tech's protocols with VT's Board of Visitors pleased as a whole with what has been implemented.
Babcock also told the Board of Visitors that he was also pleased by the job Tech's athletes, coaches, and staff have done to follow protocols and ensure a safe environment, especially with all 7 fall sports participating in full practices.
Babcock did add that he is anxious about what happens once the general studnet population does return but it's clear that Tech's athletic director feels good about what Tech is currently doing to ensure safety for their fall athletes.
Babcock on Opt Outs
Whit Babcock made it clear to the Board of Visitors that Virginia Tech is regularly informing athletes about their ability to opt out if they would prefer to, revealing that "4-5 athletes" have chosen to do so to date.
Babcock: Says Virginiaa Tech is trying to "find a balance" in terms of athletes being able to use facilities on campus especially if they aren't in the most stringent protocols. Says there's about "4-5 athletes" who have opted out to date across all sports #Hokies— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) August 13, 2020
However, Babcock also did mention that Tech is trying to "find a balance" in regards to providing resources to athletes who opt out and are therefore not in as stringent protocols without putting those in more stringent protocols at risk. That question mostly surrounds access to practice facilities, weight rooms, and things of that nature.
Babcock made sure to establish that athlete eligibility will be protected with the NCAA's ruling yesterday preserving eligibility for opt outs allowing for that to happen while also once again ensuring that athletes who opt out will not lose their scholarships whatsoever.
This issue of access for players who are not in the participating athletes' protocols is definitely a major question though it seems likely that teams will lean on the health side and limit in-person access to facilities for those not competing and not within the stringent protocols.
Babcock on Fan Attendance and Tailgating
This may have been the most newsworthy item of the day as Babcock's comments made it clear that fan attendance will likely be very low initially if there are any fans at Lane Stadium while allowing tailgating is something that is still up in the air.
Just to be clear about what Babcock said about fans at games, there's still not a final decision on that.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) August 13, 2020
"Right now, if we are to have games, which certainly we believe we can, if things keep inching along, we'll likely be minimal fans, if any. We don't know that yet." #Hokies
Babcock: Says "there is a way to do it" on the possibility of tailgating for games this fall adding that the NFL has given them a model for doing so #Hokies— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) August 13, 2020
The attendance comment on "very gently" bringing fans back is likely in part due to the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia currently has a 1,000 fan attendance limit for sporting events that would apply currently to Lane Stadium.
This is a change in tone from recent media comments where Babcock left the door open to the potential of up to "30-36%" capacity, something that is likely still under consideration, but probably can be mostly ruled out unless things significantly change between now and later in the season.
Of course, it is possible that Virginia Tech could try to pursue a waiver, something that Babcock didn't say if Tech was considering or actively doing. However, Tech may simply be content to follow the example of some NFL teams and start by playing games behind closed doors with the hope that COVID case numbers and positivty rates decrease more, allowing for less risks to having fans at games.
In regards to tailgating, it's clear that Virginia Tech is open to it, but also doing so cautiously wanting to make sure that tailgating is done safely. NFL teams have started to release plans about allowing tailgating with the Dallas Cowboys releasing a plan that allows it in a limited number of lots where there has to be at least one open parking space separation on either side.
If Virginia Tech were to allow tailgating on their property, it would likely be extremely limited and with strict social distancing measures implemented. Tailgating does seem like a stretch that may not be allowed at the first couple of games, but could be allowed later on in the season if tailgating goes well at NFL games.