The Notre Dame football SWAT captains made their position clear Monday night.
They want to play football this fall.
Quarterback Ian Book released an open letter on Twitter on behalf of the SWAT (Spring/Summer Workout Accountability Team) captains — players designated as leaders for the program through the offseason — indicating their desire to play football this fall.
The first sentence of the letter said: “We want to be safe and we want to play.”
Ten SWAT captains — Book, defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, offensive linemen Robert Hainsey, Liam Eichenberg, Tommy Kraemer, nose guard Kurt Hinish, tight end Brock Wright, linebacker Drew White and cornerback Shaun Crawford — signed the open letter addressed to college presidents, administrators, commissioners and fans.
The letter, which came after the Detroit Free Press reported earlier Monday that the Big Ten was expected to cancel its fall football season, expressed confidence in Notre Dame’s COVID-19 protocols and safety measures.
“Over the past few days, we have watched the future of our college football season come into question,” the letter said. “We cannot judge the readiness of every campus and athletic program, but we know that many of our student-athlete peers around the country feel ready and confident in their game plan.”
Notre Dame started on-campus classes for its fall semester Monday. The university released testing data Monday evening showing that 33 of the 11,836 students (0.28%) tested prior to arrival on campus had tested positive for COVID-19. Those students are not allowed to join the campus until cleared by medical professionals, the university release said.
Notre Dame’s campus safety measures included the distribution of 100,000 cloth masks to students, staff and faculty, 12,000 kits for students with hand sanitizer and thermometers, and socially distanced seating arrangements for classrooms and dining.
Notre Dame's football program, which returned to campus in early June, accounted for 459 COVID-19 tests to players, coaches and staff through July 29. The only two positive test results belonged to players. Both were quarantined, recovered and rejoined the team for workouts.
Last week, the ACC announced that Notre Dame’s 2020 football season was scheduled to start Sept. 12 with a home opener against Duke. The Irish have planned to play 10 conference games with the ACC with the ability to play in the ACC Championship in December. Six of Notre Dame’s previously scheduled games this season outside of the ACC were canceled. An opening remains for Notre Dame to play a non-conference game the weekend of Sept. 19.
“As leaders of this team,” the SWAT captain letter said, “we can confidently say that the mental and physical health of this team is in a better place with the football season taking place this fall.”
Prior to the release of the letter, at least nine Notre Dame football players, including Book and Hayes, tweeted #WeWantToPlay on Sunday night as the hashtag started a movement across the country. The hashtag has been used by players in each Power Five conference.
Some players included a graphic that included demands for mandated health and safety procedures and COVID-19 protocols, the opportunity for players to opt out, guaranteed eligibility for players and the creation of a College Football Players Association, an apparent attempt of unionization.
It’s unclear if those who have tweeted #WeWantToPlay, which Monday included President Donald Trump, support all those demands.
What became clear Monday night at Notre Dame is the Irish are presenting a united front in their desire to play. Head coach Brian Kelly supported the letter released by the SWAT captains.
“I stand firmly in support of our players,” Kelly wrote on Twitter. “They have held each other to a high level of accountability and discipline in regards to the strict health and safety protocols implemented by our medical staff. We’ll continue putting health and safety at the forefront of all that we do.”
Read the complete letter below:
To College Presidents, Administrators, Commissioners and Fans:
WE WANT TO BE SAFE AND WE WANT TO PLAY.
The current global pandemic has changed the way we live, work and go to school. Like any challenging situation, our leaders must work together on a game plan, and we must execute. While our football team has been on campus for workouts this summer, we have practiced not only football, but also our COVID-19 protocols and safety measures. From Fr. Jenkins to Coach Kelly to our incredible medical and facilities staffs, we have devised a solid game plan.
The great coach Ara Parseghian once said: "You are going to get knocked down, but you don't lie there. You get up and face the challenge."
Our team is ready for the challenge, and our students are ready for the challenge.
Over the past few days, we have watched the future of our college football season come into question. We cannot judge the readiness of every campus and athletic program, but we know that many of our student-athlete peers around the country feel ready and confident in their game plan.
While it is not clear who holds the future of this season in their hands, there are few things that we, the football student-athletes at the University of Notre Dame, want to make clear from our perspective:
We believe our safety is the top priority. Our coaches, doctors and training staff have proven that to us every step of the way.
We want to play football. We are ready for the challenge.
As leaders of this team, we can confidently say that the mental and physical health of this team is in a better place with the football season taking place this fall.
We will continue to work with our University, medical staff and coaches to keep our team as safe and healthy as possible. In return, we are asking those in power to listen. Don't change the game plan now; it is time to take the field.
We are ready for this season. #WeWantToPlay
Your Notre Dame SWAT Captains
(Signed by Drew White, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Kurth Hinish, Shaun Crawford, Ian Book, Brock Wright, Robert Hainsey, Daelin Hayes, Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg)