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Matlin: Testing, not money, was biggest factor in deciding to play football in fall

The Maui News

The Mountain West will test its football players, coaches, trainers and other field staff three times a week for COVID-19, the conference said Friday as it prepares for an Oct. 24 start to the season.

A day after announcing that the conference’s Board of Directors voted to resume football competition following the Aug. 10 indefinite postponement of fall sports, the Mountain West went into more detail about its decision.

The conference has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to implement testing protocols across all member institutions. University of Hawaii athletic director David Matlin, whose school is a football-only member of the Mountain West, said the availability of rapid testing — not finances — was the deciding factor for fall football.

“In the end, health and safety and doing this in a safe manner was the only litmus test to be able to move forward,” he said during a press conference held over Zoom on Friday. “Obviously there are economic realities, but we were prepared to, if we weren’t going to play … we were looking at budget scenarios with that. So obviously that’s a positive outcome from this decision, but it is not a driver.”

While Commissioner Craig Thompson told The Associated Press last week that the conference would not move forward on a fall football season without its schools having the ability to test daily, it appears the conference decided against joining the Big Ten and Pac-12 in testing their athletes every day.

“Obviously we want to keep our guys safe, that’s first and foremost, but we’re excited about the opportunity to move forward and get the opportunity to compete, and compete for a Mountain West championship,” first-year UH head coach Todd Graham said in the Zoom press conference.

During a 10-5 campaign last year, the Rainbow Warriors made their first appearance in the MW championship game before capping the season with a 38-34 victory over BYU in the Hawaii Bowl.

With the start of this season now just a month away, Graham is confident his team will be ready.

“No doubt in my mind it is enough time to be able to get ready and do it because it’s pretty much how we do it every year,” he said. “There are some extenuating circumstances, this is not just any other year, but no doubt I think it’s enough time.”

As far as allowing fans in Aloha Stadium, Matlin was noncommittal.

“We have our first step now with the Mountain West, our second step is working for the travel for people going in and out (of the state). The next step after that will be looking at fans in attendance, if they can be,” he said. “We’ll have anywhere from no fans to, I mean, obviously I don’t think we will be at full capacity. So, we just have to do it one step at a time, and that’s really step three to me.”

Also on Friday, the Mid-American Conference, the first major college football league to postpone its season, became the final one to jump back in, making it 10 out of 10 conferences that will play in the fall. The MAC plans to play a six-game schedule.

* The Associated Press contributed to this story.