Two days into Santa Barbara City College football’s in-person conditioning class, three team members tested positive for COVID-19, and the class was shut down and moved online, SBCC Athletic Director Rocco Constantino said.
The SBCC football team had started conditioning workouts at La Playa Stadium on Monday, following state, county and school guidelines.
Constantino said he learned of the players’ positive tests just before Wednesday’s class.
The players who tested positive are from out of the area and live together.
“Five of our students and players live together locally. Three of them have tested positive, and of the three, only one is currently symptomatic,” Constantino said. “The other two have tested negative.”
SBCC put its COVID-19 Prevention and Response Plan into action. The student athletes are all in quarantine for 14 days and may not return to campus until they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of being symptom-free, negative on a test, and cleared by a doctor, according to Constantino.
Members of the football team and all other sports teams at SBCC are not required to be tested daily.
“Daily testing is not a requirement of public health officials in order for us to conduct our physically-distanced conditioning classes,” Constantino said. “However, we will require that all players get tested if there is a possible exposure or positive test.”
After learning of the positive-tested players, Constantino said all players in the football class and all coaches will be required to get tested.
The class will continue, but switched to an online format for 14 days.
“Students will not return to in-person instruction without a negative test result,” Constantino said.
Football coach Craig Moropoulos said the situation was disappointing, “but I can’t say it was surprising to me. The thing about it is I think we did the right thing shutting down and quarantining. We’ve got really good leadership.”
Dr. Utpal Goswami, SBCC superintendent/president, was pleased with how quickly the school’s response plans were deployed after learning of the positive tests.
“I want to commend the PE/Athletics department and our student COVID-19 compliance officer, Dr. Pamela Ralston, for their quick response,” Goswami said in an email to the SBCC staff. “This is a reminder to all our students and staff that even with all our strict protocols, we cannot fully eliminate all risk. We need students and staff to continue to follow advice from public health experts throughout their day, on and off campus.”
The football team was following physical distancing and other safety protocols when it was on the field.
“On our first day, each player was standing on each of the five-yard markers, so they were 15 feet apart from each other and at least 10 feet front to back, with all staff and students wearing masks,” said Constantino, who attended the class along with other school personnel. “We were very happy with the way the team physically distanced and followed all health and safety protocols. On day two, we had a much smaller group in attendance. Again, they did a great job of physically distancing and wearing their masks and the activities were very minimal. Nobody was within 6 feet of each other during either session. We have monitors there, including myself, making sure that was the case.”
Moropoulos said there is a lesson to be learned from the situation.
“We adhere so much to social distancing, the mask wearing, sanitizing, but what I’ve learned is it’s not necessarily at practice, it’s what happens when (the student athletes) go home, it’s what happens after they leave. The guys have really got to know how important it is to be responsible after they leave from practice.”
Several college football programs across the country have experienced breakouts of the novel coronavirus on their teams.
Moropoulos noted that Alabama coach Nick Saban said he thinks the players are safer at practice on campus than they would be at home.
“Teams work together, and if someone does his own thing, that’s not a team situation,” Moropoulos said. “We’re trying to amplify that. That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to teach these guys: Be responsible when you’re away from the program.”
In normal times, SBCC football would be heading into its season opener on Saturday.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Community College Athletic Association, the governing body of community college sports, approved a two-season calendar to begin in February, with football season openers scheduled for Feb. 13.
— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.