Virginia’s first game of the 2020 football season — scheduled Sept. 19 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg — has been postponed. A new date has not been set yet, but both schools will work with the ACC to reschedule the game for later in the season.
“These are very challenging times,” Virginia Athletics Director Carla Williams said. “We understand and respect the decision by Virginia Tech. With so much uncertainty, flexibility in scheduling becomes incredibly important. I know both teams and both fan bases were looking forward to opening the season next weekend. We’ll work with the conference and Virginia Tech to reschedule.”
The mutual decision was made after Virginia Tech officials contacted Williams Friday about the possibility of delaying the rivalry game. According to the Hokies’ press release, the postponement was related to “COVID-19 issues at Virginia Tech.”
"We did not meet the minimums all across the board,” Virginia Tech Athletics Director Whit Babcock said. “It came down to our chief medical officer telling us we should not proceed. It's as simple as that."
In its latest round of COVID-19 testing results, Virginia Athletics announced Friday that no football players have tested positive for COVID-19 since July. Virginia Tech does not publicly disclose the number of its student-athletes who test positive for COVID-19, but as a university reported 219 positive tests in the previous seven days, putting its total infections at 633 since testing began Aug. 3 — almost double that of Virginia’s total cases.
"The safety, as well as the physical and mental well-being of these young men and women entrusted to our care by their families remains our top priority," Babcock said. "While we share the disappointment of everyone who hoped to begin the football season against our in-state rival, we remain optimistic that a full ACC football schedule can be played thanks to the flexibility the present format permits.
Virginia Tech football Coach Justin Fuente added that his “primary concern continues to be the well-being of the student-athletes on [the Virginia Tech] football team” and that he “hurt[s] for [his players] because [he] know[s] how badly they want to compete.”
A number of Virginia coaches and players took to Twitter to share their disappointment, thoughts and opinions regarding the news.
“I love my players because [I’ve] witnessed them SINCE MARCH make GRAVE sacrifices to play football,” running backs coach Mark Atuaia said. “My heart goes out to them because no one is giving merit to the [discipline] my young brothers have displayed since the pandemic hit. My UVA young brothers are AMAZING!!!”
Offensive line coach Garrett Tujague emphasized the Virginia football players’ commitment to the team and the program.
“It is really this simple ... you either are committed to your team or you are not,” Tujague said. “There are those that can sacrifice for each other and then there are those that CAN NOT. The greatest thing is … You get to make that choice.”
Some members of the football team focused their discontent with the situation on Virginia Tech’s football players. Senior linebacker Charles Snowden, in particular, appeared to be critical of the Hokies on social media.
“Stop doing all that tweeting about how you wanna play and just act like it,” Snowden said. “Them [hollow] tweets not [going to] save you.”
Virginia Tech junior wide receiver Tré Turner responded to the tweet, saying “I’m ready whenever, wherever bro” to which Snowden replied with skepticism.
“Nahhh y’all not,” Snowden said. “If that were the case we’d be seeing you in 7 days, so I’m not tryna hear that. Get your guys to start doing the right thing.”
At this point, the next open date shared by both Virginia and Virginia Tech is Dec. 12, which may be the date of the rescheduled game between the Cavaliers and the Hokies.
With the postponement of its game against Virginia Tech, Virginia football will now open the season against Duke Sept. 26 at Scott Stadium. The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 14 but it was moved up since both teams had open dates scheduled for that weekend.
“I appreciate the quick action taken by the ACC and the willingness of Duke University to reschedule this game,” Williams said. “It was really important for the players to have the opportunity to compete given the commitment they have shown each other and the program over the last few months.”