The Vanderbilt Commodores hope to not suffer the same fate the Tennessee Titans did two weeks ago after a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Commodores only had 56 scholarship players available during Saturday’s 41-7 loss to South Carolina, only three more than the NCAA minimum requirement of 53. Should Vanderbilt fall below 53 players, the team would be subject to a cancelation, postponement or no-contest result.
“You can't control everything, and I think that's probably the toughest thing for college coaches nowadays — the inability to control everything is what we're used to, and we're sitting in this new normal of every day is a new day,” Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason said. “What you've got to do is make sure that you come in with your plan, figure out exactly what you need to do, let's get through the day and let's fight to see another day."
Against South Carolina, Vanderbilt was without safety Donovan Kaufman, running back Ja’Veon Marlow, safety Dashaun Jerkins, linebacker Alston Orji and cornerback Randall Haynie.
Kaufman appeared to have self-identified as testing positive on Friday saying, “Tested positive,” in a tweet in response to someone asking why he wasn’t playing on Saturday. Mason declined after the game to list specific reasons for why certain players did not play.
"We've never spoken to medical issues that way in terms of our student-athletes,” he said. “For us, you know about the HIPAA laws just like I do. Discussing where our student-athletes are in terms of health issues or anything else like that is not something that we do here at Vanderbilt.”
It’s not the first time Vanderbilt has battled COVID-related issues. Quarterbacks Jeremy Moussa and Danny Clark both missed some time during the preseason after being in quarantine for two weeks.
The ‘Dores were hit hard before the season even started when six players — including kicker Oren Milstein, linebacker Feleti Efemui and offensive linemen Cole Clemens, Bryce Bailey, Johnathan Stewart and Stephen Spanellis — opted out of playing. The six opt-outs were tied with Missouri for the most in the SEC.
“We had a fair number of opt-outs,” Mason said. “We understood exactly what it was going to look like for us to play football. Our players want to play football. I think these guys have an opportunity to play some winning football. The key is being able to minimize what we can.
“…We’re playing football in a pandemic. But this university is committed to not putting student-athletes in harm’s way and making sure that we have as good of a roster as we can to go into ball games.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_