This article was originally published by Ron Counts in the Idaho Statesman.
Football players from around the Mountain West sent the conference a letter Thursday evening, demanding more protections from COVID-19 if there’s to be a fall season.
The letter, posted on Twitter by several players, including Boise State’s Tyreque Jones, began with #MWUnited. In the letter, players said they don’t feel safe training and competing under current conditions.
“There is too much ambiguity surrounding the state of affairs in this country to demand competition as we know it,” the statement read. “The last four months have altered the lives of not just Americans, but the human race. We have families and children just like any fan, coach, citizen or worker. The virus is real and rampant in this country.”
The letter went on to praise how coaches and conference officials have revolutionized the way players train, but the athletes said they still don’t feel comfortable playing teams from other states.
The Mountain West covers eight states, and on Wednesday, the league announced an eight-game conference schedule while giving teams the option to play two nonconference games.
“It is difficult to believe that hundreds of 17- to 22-year-old college students are capable of social distancing effectively enough to travel state-to-state for 10 weeks,” Thursday’s statement read. “This is evident in the report released by several schools that have had an increase in cases of COVID-19 following return to OTA-style workouts.”
For those reasons, the players composed a list of conditions to be agreed upon by the conference, coaches and athletes to “ensure our health, safety and well-being,” per the statement.
- Athletes will receive COVID-19 testing each week and at least 72 hours before every game, as instructed by the NCAA.
- Coaches, trainers and staff members will be tested each week.
- Football facilities will follow strict cleaning protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines.
- Universities will follow contact tracing protocols in adherence with the CDC.
- Proper accommodations and safety standards will be put in place for alternative outdoor facilities to increase social distancing during workouts.
- Athletes who choose to opt out of the season will receive a hardship waiver, granting them an additional year of eligibility regardless of where they are on the five-year clock.
- Athletes who contract COVID-19 during the season and miss more than 30 percent of games will receive a hardship waiver, granting them an additional year of eligibility regardless of where they are on the five-year clock.
- In the event of the cancellation of more than 50 percent of games, all athletes will receive a hardship waiver, granting them an additional year of eligibility regardless of where they are on the five-year clock.
- Scholarships and roster spots will be preserved for all athletes who receive a hardship waiver due to COVID-19.
- Ban and void all COVID-19 liability waivers.
- Ensure coverage of all COVID-19 related medical expenses incurred by athletes for five years after exhaustion of eligibility.
- Whistleblower protections for athletes and staff who report suspected violations of COVID-19 protocols.
The Mountain West responded Thursday evening, saying it was continuing to develop comprehensive testing and reporting protocols in according with NCAA guidelines. As a result, nearly all the issues raised by the players are already being addressed, according to the conference.
The conference also expects additional clarity from upcoming decision from the NCAA Board of Directors, expected on Aug. 14 and 21.
Players from the Mountain West are the latest to demand more protections from their conferences. On Sunday, athletes from the Pac-12 said they wouldn’t practice or compete until their concerns were met. On Wednesday, players from the Big Ten presented the conference and NCAA with a similar list of demands.
Boise State was scheduled to open fall camp on Friday, but the team announced Wednesday that camp was postponed until the week of Aug. 17. After the conference announced games can’t begin until the week of Sept. 26, the Broncos’ season opener — as of now — is scheduled for Sept. 25 at Marshall.
BRONCOS ADD 2021 TIGHT END
Boise State continued investing in the future of its offense Thursday with a verbal commitment from 2021 tight end Matthew Lauter.
Four of Boise State’s past five commitments have come from players projected to compete on the offensive side of the ball, including dual-threat quarterback Taylen Green.
The lone unknown is three-star athlete Kaden Dudley, who started at wide receiver and safety last season at Palmer Ridge High School in Colorado and could line up at either spot for the Broncos.
Lauter is a 6-foot-4, 222-pound tight end from Encinitas, California, who has a three-star rating from 247Sports. He chose the Broncos over an offer from Mountain West rival UNLV.
Last season at Torrey Pines High School, Lauter started at tight end and linebacker, collecting 20 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns and adding 47 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception.
Boise State’s tight ends are led this season by redshirt senior John Bates, who set career highs last season with 22 catches and 273 receiving yards.
Converted quarterback Riley Smith and athletic redshirt sophomore Tyneil Hopper should also see snaps, and the Broncos added graduate transfer Mason Sikes to the mix in April and signed Idaho product Austin Bolt in February.
2021 RECRUITING CLASS
LB Jai Jones, 5-11, 230, South Oak Cliff High (Dallas, Texas)
WR Jalen Richmond, 6-0, 175, Chandler (Arizona) High
RB Eli Sanders, 6-0, 190, Chandler (Arizona) High
QB Taylen Green, 6-5, 215, Lewisville (Texas) High
ATH Kaden Dudley, 5-11, 190, Palmer Ridge High (Monument, Colorado)
TE Matthew Lauter, 6-4, 222, Torrey Pines High (Encinitas, California)