Notre Dame football cancels Wednesday's practice and may take Thursday off

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

A day after the Notre Dame football team got the green light to continue practicing through more restrictive campus-wide COVID-19 protocols, it voluntarily hit the pause button on Wednesday.

And it may remain idling Thursday as well “in an abundance of caution,” according to an athletic department statement.

So instead of an Irish practice with an eye toward the Sept. 12 season opener with Duke, the intended hiatus gave campus officials the opportunity to answer questions and work on logistics.

And there were plenty of both brought on by university president Rev. John I Jenkins’ Tuesday afternoon announcement to move all undergraduate classes from campus to remote learning for the next two weeks.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports was the first to report ND canceling practice, through a conversation with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, exactly a week after the team began training camp.

Among the other measures included in Jenkins’ ultimatum/edict was the requirement that all students housed on campus remain on campus. And all students housed off campus — as is the case with the majority of football players this year — must remain off campus through at least Sept. 2.

Jenkins revealed during a Tuesday live-stream presentation that he initially was inclined to send all the students home for the rest of the semester immediately. After consultation with St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox, Jenkins settled on two weeks of online learning, effective Wednesday.

If at the end of that period (Sept. 2), the case numbers and positivity rate haven’t shown marked improvement, Jenkins said he’ll revert to his initial notion of sending the students home.

On Wednesday, Notre Dame reported 73 new cases in 355 tests. While that was a drop from the 82 reported (in 420 tests) Tuesday that prompted Jenkins to take action, the positivity rate (20.6%) was actually slightly higher than Tuesday’s 19.5%.

Students began moving back to campus Aug. 3 with fall-semester classes starting Aug. 10. Since Aug. 3, there have 222 reported cases based on 1,287 tests for a 17.2% positivity rate, a number that has climbed for eight straight days.

In its pre-matriculation testing, there were 33 positives in 11,836 tests for a positivity rate of 0.28%.

Notre Dame admitted in a press release that the recent spike overwhelmed the school’s testing capacity, and that it is beefing up both personnel and resources to handle the surge.

The football team, at last report, had a 0.64 positivity rate since arriving in mid-June for voluntary workouts. And that Aug. 12 report included two positives registered since the return of students.

Prior to that one football player tested positive upon arrival and one other tested positive since the initial round of testing, for a total of four positives.

The teams underwent testing Monday, so a new report could be released soon.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick (left) and head coach Brian Kelly (right) chat during the Aug. 12 opening of Irish football training camp.