KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Big Ten football returned last weekend and now the Mid-American Conference is preparing to kick off its year with new procedures in place to fight COVID-19.
Western Michigan University’s athletic department has ramped up testing in the preseason.
Assistant Athletic Director Brian Bauer, who serves as the director of medical services, says the university is ready to navigate the season during the pandemic.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to have our student-athletes have a chance to complete,” Bauer said.
In addition to mask and social distancing requirements, the university is already conducting extensive testing. Coaches and support staff also have to be tested in addition to players.
“The protocol basically states that if you’re in and around the field of play every single day working with student athletes, then you need to be tested at least four days a week,” Bauer said.
The Mid-American Conference universities reevaluated the original decision to not play a fall football season shortly after the Big Ten conference reversed course.
“I think they started to see that the antigen test was going to become more readily available and then if you were testing more frequently with the rapid antigen test, that that should suffice enough to help mitigate risk,” Bauer said.
The Sindecuse Health Center on campus is conducting the tests for WMU athletics.
If a rapid test comes back positive, a second test will be taken and sent away to a lab in Metro Detroit for additional verification.
“Our physicians identified that on a positive antigen test that we would also conduct a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on that individual to ensure that we’re recording accurate results,” Bauer said.
The department has to comply with NCAA, MAC conference and its own guidelines. Testing for football has already increased before the start of the season.
“Also, part of the NCAA guidelines was for high-risk sports to be surveillance test pretraining periods and then as you get into preseason, those guidelines also state that the testing requirements increase,” Bauer said.
The Broncos first game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Nov. 4 at the University of Akron.