The American Athletic Conference will require mandatory coronavirus testing for all football teams at least 72 hours before each game, the league announced Thursday.
Commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN.com the league wanted to get ahead of any testing protocols the NCAA and Power 5 conference announce, in order to assure its opponents it would be able to meet or exceed all guidelines and standards recommended for all fall sports, including football. Those recommendations are expected to be in line with the American announcement.
The league will use the most reliable testing available currently, known as molecular PCR tests, and teams will have test results in hand before leaving to play their games. These protocols will be in place for the regular and bowl seasons.
"You'd like to do the testing even closer to the games, everybody would, but we want to make sure we give ourselves enough time to get the tests back," Aresco said. "Ideally, you'd like 48 hours, you'd like 24 hours, you'd like day of the game, and down the road if the antigen tests become more reliable, perhaps that could be a potential game-changer. You don't know yet. But we're going to use the most reliable test."
Aresco said the league is still working on protocols when there are positive tests during game week, noting that the same stringent quarantining and contact-tracing protocols in place now would continue to be in place during the season. "With the proper quarantine and the proper canvassing of close contacts, we think at this point it would be safe to play games," Aresco said.
Aresco added they are still working on myriad protocols, including testing once contact practice begins in August. "August has to go well or we really don't have very much chance of playing," Aresco said.
The American's preference is to play as many games as scheduled as possible, but Aresco also realizes the league is at the mercy of other Power 5 conferences' decisions about their schedules.
"In the next few weeks, we would have to make a decision on the start of the season, and then it seems to me, let's say we decide to postpone, then you have another few weeks to decide whether you can play on the postponed date, whether it's in September or October," Aresco said. "It seems to me, let's try to do what we can to play fall football under safe conditions. If we can't, we can't. We're trying to be responsible adults here, and we're taking our medical advice very seriously, but right now our medical group hasn't told us don't play or don't play the full season. They'll continue to advise us. If things get to a point where they say we don't think you should play, our presidents and chancellors would take that very seriously. But we haven't reached that point yet."
Testing protocols for Olympic sports testing are still being finalized. Aresco said they are also considering pushing the start date for Olympic sports until Sept. 1 and expects a decision to be made "fairly soon."