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Athletics: 2 more UL athletes test positive for virus; state athletic programs prep for budget cuts

, The Advertiser, June 25, 2020

Cajuns football players check in for voluntary workouts at the UL Athletics Complex on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Lafayette.

Cajuns football players check in for voluntary workouts at the UL Athletics Complex on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Lafayette. (Photo: Brad Kemp/Louisiana Athletics)

The University of Louisiana System reported 10 student athletes and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since athletes returned to campus for voluntary workouts, system Executive Vice President Marcus Jones told the Board of Supervisors on Thursday. 

Five of the student-athletes are at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Louisiana Tech University and Southeastern Louisiana University each had two student athletes test positive, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe had one student test positive, said Jones, who also serves as the system's chief operating officer.

More: At least 30 LSU football players quarantined due to coronavirus concerns

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Two of the staff members were at Southeastern, and one was at ULM. McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, and Northwestern State University had no cases. Grambling State University and the University of New Orleans do not have student-athletes on campus, Jones said.

All of the positive cases are quarantined. Five additional students who were in contact with positive cases have been quarantined at UL, he said.

UL announced on Saturday that three student-athletes tested positive and that seven others were also quarantined.

Grambling opted not to bring student athletes onto campus for voluntary workouts and will not have athletes report for mandatory practice until July 24. David "Rusty" Ponton, Grambling's director of athletics, said the decision was made to preserve the health of the students.

"There are too many unknowns. There are too many things we don't know as far as the pandemic is concerned," Ponton said. "That was the reason we did not come back early."

Bayou Classic: Grambling president addresses rumors surrounding rivalry game vs. Southern

ULS' presentation showed that more than 400 student-athletes are currently on campus across the seven universities allowing voluntary workouts. Most universities began allowing athletes to come onto campus for voluntary workouts in early June. 

Nicholls and UL have the most athletes on campus, with 94 and 85, respectively. All of the universities are doing daily screening, including temperature checks and a questionnaire. Grambling, Louisiana Tech, UL, ULM and UNO are also doing swabs. Louisiana Tech and Northwestern are also doing antibody tests, Jones said.

All institutions are screening students, staff and trainers. 

More: UL not testing all returning Cajun players for coronavirus

Jones also discussed the models the universities are using to prepare for fall sports. All eight of the football-playing schools are anticipating an on-time start for the season. UNO does not have a football program.

Louisiana Tech's capacity model is based on being at 50% to 100% capacity, and Northwestern is using a 50% capacity model. All other schools said models will be based on state regulations, Jones said.

He said most athletic directors across the system are expecting to make budget cuts as a result of the coronavirus.

More: UL plan is to prepare for fans

More: Maggard confirms UL has no plans to cut any sports

"They're working with the [chief financial officers] and the presidents to come up with plans to deal with the budget cuts that they think will probably be coming," Jones said.

Ponton said in Grambling's case, if there is an outbreak either at Grambling or at an institution it's scheduled to play, that game will not happen.

More: In college football's quest to return, how many positive tests are too many?

Canceling games would result in a financial loss, largely due to refunding tickets, but it would still be the best move, Ponton said.

"That loss doesn't outweigh the safety of the kids and the safety of the other teams that are performing," Ponton said.