Orange Watch: New traveling protocols in place for Syracuse football

Syracuse's defense makes a tackle against North Carolina. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: In the COVID-19 period, if the 2020 ACC football season does indeed commence as planned for SU in 18 days at North Carolina (Sept. 12 Time/TV TBD), there will be a different sort of itinerary for the Orange. When the team heads to the Triangle region (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) of the state to face the Tar Heels, pre-planned tweaks to normalcy from prior season road trips are in store for the traveling party.

One noticeable aspect of the months-long pandemic gripping the U.S. is there have been hot spots breaking out in different sectors of the country at different times.

In March and April, the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and New England were ravaged along with the West Coast.  Later in the spring into the summer it was the Southeast and eventually Midwest. No states were immune.

Governors in many of those states have been forced to declare anyone traveling interstate from certain areas had to quarantine for, in most cases, a 14-day period.

Now as college campuses are beginning fall semester classes, the coronavirus has caused many universities nationally to do an abrupt face and cancel in-person learning for virtual classes. In fact, last week’s announced outbreak of positive COVID-19 test results among students returning to the North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, forced the administration to place almost 200 students in isolation and another approximate 350 to be quarantined.

UNC coach Mack Brown subsequently raised eyebrows last week promoting the importance of moving forward with the lucrative nature of Power 5 football, instead of the state school’s primary role as an educational institution.

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Brown, in a conference call with the media, labeled the removal of students as one that “helps us create a better seal around our program and a better bubble,” while seemingly downplaying the disadvantage to the tuition-paying undergraduate student body being forced to leave campus for remote instruction.

At SU, which had its own difficulties last week getting a quad-partying group of incoming students on the same page when it comes to responsible behavior related to the pandemic, the football team had its first intra-squad scrimmage Sunday, and continues to intensify pre-season practices before readying to travel via a charter flight to North Carolina the week after next. When that occurs, there will be alterations to procedures to protect the traveling party.

Asked Monday at his weekly news conference with local and national media about the opening game travel specifics, the Cuse’s Dino Babers also cited the need to preserve a bubble atmosphere for his team when it travels for the first time as a group outside of central New York since the pandemic struck the country.

“I would imagine they (the ACC) want us (to fly down) the night before,” Babers said. “Because that’s the only way they can guarantee that we’re going to be there. That would be my guess, but they (the conference) have not (yet) come out with a decision.”

“The logistics of the travel has been laid out,” Babers continued. “Basically, we’ll be in a contained bubble. It will almost be like what the NBA people are doing, but we’ll do it as a travel party. We’ll leave together, we’ll arrive together, and we’ll stay together.”

That would be at the team hotel in the Triangle that might be devoid of parents and boosters who might ordinarily be welcoming the players and coaches in the lobby upon arrival, with still-to-be-determined attendance procedures forthcoming from North Carolina state government and university officials.

On game day, it will be the usual private team pre-game meal coinciding several hours before the kickoff time, and then boarding a couple of buses on route to the Tar Heels Kenan Memorial Stadium.

“Then we’ll go to the game, and we’ll all come back the exact same way,” Babers explained. (We’ll) try and keep that bubble tight with no one else jumping in or outside that bubble to contaminate a pure bubble, basically. So, we’ll be traveling as a unit.”

Then the following week the program will do it all over again on route to the scheduled Pittsburgh road contest September 19, before the planned first game under the Dome’s new roof hosting Georgia Tech for the first time ever on September 26.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.