John Swofford says ACC to stay at 3-times-a-week testing protocol, feels good about start to season

ACC commissioner John Swofford told ESPN Thursday that the league is comfortable with its current testing protocols and is not looking at moving to conference-wide daily testing.

Swofford said the ACC medical advisory group is comfortable with testing a minimum of three times per week, which the league started doing when the season began last week. Teams are tested the day before games, 48 hours after games, and at midweek. Duke is the only ACC school currently offering daily testing.

The Big Ten announced Wednesday it would have daily antigen testing once it resumes play next month, joining the Pac-12 as the only conferences to announce plans for daily testing.

"If there's a better way to approach it, that makes it safer for our athletes to compete, we'll pivot, but at this point in time, we'll be continuing with what we've started with because it's gone well," Swofford said in a phone interview. "Our medical people advise us that it's efficient and thorough and meets the needs of the medical community and our athletes. With the antigen testing, there are questions about the sensitivity of it as well as the availability of it, and if that becomes a better approach and an available approach with our medical advisory group then we'll look at adjusting -- but not at this time. "We have great confidence in that group and their advice."

So far, three games involving ACC teams have been rescheduled or canceled because of coronavirus-related concerns. But that has not worried Swofford, because they went into the season fully expecting for there to be stops and starts due to coronavirus. NC State asked to reschedule its game against Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech asked to reschedule its game against Virginia because they did not have enough players to safely field a team. Charlotte canceled its game against North Carolina on Saturday because it did not have enough offensive linemen. The issues at those three schools stem from players being out due to contact-tracing quarantine.

The ACC did not implement a minimum roster size in order to play because, as Swofford said, "we didn't see the need to set a total number of players." All that is required are seven offensive linemen, due to the nature of the position, and an "adequate" number of players to play.

"We talked with our schools, with our ADs, with our coaches and with our presidents about the expectation that we would need to be nimble, and this year would be unlike any other year from a scheduling standpoint and we needed to understand that going in," Swofford said. "So that has been an expectation that we would have those situations and we planned for those, and so far that's gone extremely well, the communication between our institutions and the conference office has been superb. We've been able to adjust. Hopefully, we'll have a minimum number of those, but it would be unrealistic to expect that we wouldn't have some rescheduling during a year under these circumstances."

Though the ACC has guidelines in place that could lead to the halt or postponement of the season, Swofford is hopeful now that the games have begun they will be able to reach the end and play the ACC championship game in December.

"Obviously, it's a challenging season, and we feel good about the start of it, we feel good about the flexibility in our scheduling now that we've actually had to use that flexibility, we feel comfortable with the protocols that are in place," Swofford said. "The process of doing the testing the first week of the season went very well, so I would say the first week makes us very hopeful that we'll get to the end of the season.

"Will every game be played? We don't know. Will we have to adjust other games? I would say that's likely. but so far, in the early going, what has been put in place we have found to be effective and efficient and workable, and if that continues, that gives us a good chance of having a full season, if you will, and the ability to have a conference championship game and move forward. But a lot of that will be in the hands of the virus and how that plays out."

As for the Big Ten reversing course and deciding to play an eight-game fall season that would end in time for the College Football Playoff, Swofford said the CFP management committee would have to decide how to address that with the selection committee.

"That will be a discussion as to how best to address that when the time comes, whether that's just totally subjective or whether there should be a minimum number of games played," Swofford said. "In any of our sports, the actual number of games played may not be the same as the number of games scheduled for obvious reasons because you could lose some games that simply could not be rescheduled simply because you've run out of time or circumstances just don't allow for that game to be rescheduled. So that will be a point of CFP discussion in the next month or so."

Though the large focus until now has been on getting the football season underway, the next big step is determining the men's and women's basketball schedule. Now that the NCAA has said the basketball season can start Nov. 25, that process is underway.

Swofford said he expects the league to play some nonconference games, while playing a similar number -- if not the same number -- of conference games as they would in a normal season. Louisville coach Chris Mack said Thursday on a call with reporters that the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is a priority for both leagues.

In order to truly map out the schedule, the ACC is trying to work through testing protocols with the medical advisory committee, since basketball plays more frequently and has more games than football.