BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — LSU athletic director Scott Woodward confirmed Wednesday what head football coach Ed Orgeron first reported Tuesday: that “most” of the school’s football players have had COVID-19.
But Woodward played defense, calling the coach’s admission “a bit too transparent and a bit too forthright.”
“The beauty of this is Coach O is totally transparent and honest to a fault,” Woodward said in a joint briefing with interim LSU president Tom Galligan Wednesday. “This is very similar to what we’re seeing across all schools that have been doing this.”
Woodward pushed back on multiple reporters’ questions regarding COVID-19 cases among football players — including when asked how many LSU Tigers have the virus now.
“Yesterday, it was in the single digits,” he said. “But we’re not going to get into a numbers-counting game from our end.”
In staying mum, the athletic director cited U.S. Department of Education guidelines on sharing COVID-19 information. Those guidelines, however, allow schools to disclose virus data, so long as they don’t reveal any particular student’s identity.
Woodward stuck to his case. He paraphrased a quote from former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, as popularized by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
LSU started sharing tallies of on-campus coronavirus cases on Aug. 15. The school has counted 768 positive cases.
How the LSU football players got the virus remains unclear; Woodward voiced doubt that they caught it in practice or weight rooms.
“It happened in a fast way in the spike, and for the most part it happened socially,” he said. “We have the best contact tracing system in America, maybe second only to the Secret Service.”
Orgeron has banned players from going to bars since June, after a group of them hit up the Tigerland compound near the LSU campus. But addressing reporters Wednesday, Woodward admitted flaws in enforcing the ban.
“We only have [players] 20 to now 40 hours a week,” he said. “We don’t have them 24/7.”
Woodward praised the medical care virus-positive players have gotten so far. None have been hospitalized, though some have shown mild symptoms.
“Our kids have been healthy and have gone through it,” he said. “That’s why I feel so strongly about it and feel good about what we’re doing.”
LSU wellness officials have not yet seen any cases of myocarditis — or heart inflammation — among the university’s football players. School medical personnel give each athlete with COVID-19 an echocardiograms, an electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood tests to rule out inflammation.
SEC guidelines state that once players get the virus, they don’t need another test for 90 days. Both Orgeron and Woodward hope that means the team can go through the upcoming three-to-four-month season immune.
“I’m not an epidemiologist,” Woodward said. “This is just one man’s opinion who reads a lot about it.”
LSU starts its 10-game, conference-only football season Sept. 26., hosting Mississippi State at Tiger Stadium. Social distancing measures will leave the stadium at a 25 percent capacity, with no tailgating allowed.
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