Dayton’s season-opening football game canceled

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Highlights: Dayton Flyers football photo day

Positive COVID-19 tests at Robert Morris mean UD will have to wait another week to play

The Dayton Flyers have waited almost two years to play a football game and will have to wait another week to get back on the field.

Dayton’s season-opening game against Robert Morris was canceled Friday because of positive COVID-19 tests within the Robert Morris program. The teams were scheduled to play at noon Saturday at Welcome Stadium. The game will not be rescheduled.

“I recognize the seriousness of this for Robert Morris,” Dayton Athletic Director Neill Sullivan said. “I wish them their full health. But it is heartbreaking for our players. They’ve been through a lot in the last 18 months. They were really looking forward to this. Our football players are some of the best the university has to offer in all areas. They’re passionate about their sport. They’re passionate about what they do. I feel terrible for them. They’ll be on to the next one, and they’ll do what they do, which is always persevere and take on the next challenge. But it definitely stings for the young men who are the epitome of what we’re about as an athletic department.”

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Dayton will instead open the season at 1 p.m. Sept. 11 against Eastern Illinois at Welcome Stadium.

Eastern Illinois will have played two games by the time it comes to Dayton. It lost 26-21 at Indiana State last week and plays at South Carolina on Saturday.

Dayton did not play a season in 2020 because of the pandemic and did not participate in the Pioneer Football League’s six-game spring season earlier this year. Robert Morris played three games in the Big South Conference in the spring and had three games cancelled.

Sullivan doesn’t expect the fall of 2021 to be a repeat of 2020. He said an “exceptionally high” percentage of Dayton athletes throughout all the programs have been vaccinated. That should improve UD’s chances of avoiding COVID-19 cancellations caused by positive tests on its end.

“We’ve done great so far,” Sullivan said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have our share of issues. Whether vaccinated or not, the virus is still out there. But we’re really proud of our student-athletes and our coaches.”

Prior to the vaccine becoming available, athletes were tested three times a week if not more last season. Sullivan said the protocols this academic year differ from school to school.

“Generally speaking, the most common method throughout the country, including in the A-10 and the PFL, is that non-vaccinated players are tested within 48 hours of a game,” Sullivan said. “Essentially, non-vaccinated players are part of testing protocol, and anyone that’s vaccinated and symptomatic is part of testing protocol.”

The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball program had to cancel five games last December because of positive COVID-19 tests, and the men’s basketball program saw its schedule change throughout the season because of the issues of other teams. The baseball team was also shut down for a time in the spring.

“I think it’s not sustainable to operate like we did last year,” Sullivan said. “We were literally hour to hour in each sport. I think the vaccines have given us a path forward. We have great confidence in our sports — that they’re going to play — but I think we could see hiccups from time to time. Hopefully, these will be hiccups and speed bumps versus anything more than that. We’re full go in planning for next week’s game. We think this will be the exception versus the norm, whereas last year it might have been the reverse.”

Fundraiser: UD’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the athletic department are partnering with the UD Bookstore to support the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. They are selling breast cancer awareness T-shirts.

The deadline to order them is noon Tuesday through UD’s website. They cost $25. The walk will be held Oct. 16.