Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson said his program is “coming over a hurdle and starting to look like ourselves” on the heels of postponing two games due to COVID-19 cases.
And on Monday during a meeting with local reporters, Anderson revealed that he was among those in the program who tested positive.
“It’s one thing to see a list of guys who are going to come out of isolation on paper. It’s another thing for guys to feel well enough to play and to put them in a position to play safely,” Anderson said via KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “We’ve dealt with positive cases in the past, this is really the first time we’ve dealt with a lot of guys that actually felt sick, including myself. I’ll be honest with you. I tested positive and I ran a fever for 10 days.”
Anderson said he tested positive on Sept. 16, the Wednesday after his team’s upset road victory over Kansas State. Arkansas State won that game despite leaving “close to 20” players behind, including 10 starters, due to COVID-19 issues.
The team’s issues did not stop there. Anderson said he began feeling symptoms a few days after the K-State game, even before he tested positive. A few days later, the team’s Sept. 19 game against Central Arkansas was called off with one position group affected “significantly.” Anderson said the school knew the Central Arkansas game was not going to be played, so he did not feel the need to announce his positive test like Florida State coach Mike Norvell did.
“I know that’s going to take a lot of people by surprise. I didn’t announce it like Mike Norvell did, but at the time there were a lot of other things going on and we knew we weren’t going to be playing [Central Arkansas]. I knew I wasn’t going to miss a game,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the fact that he would have been unavailable had “zero bearing” on postponing the UCA game.
“That was strictly available bodies to play safely. That had nothing to do with me testing positive,” he said.
Anderson said a different position group was significantly affected for the game against Tulsa, which was scheduled for Sept. 26. He said there was optimism at first that the game could be played, but it was later determined that it would not have been safe.
“We went from thinking ahead on who was going to be available on paper to realizing as we interviewed each person every day that they’re just not going to be ready. We’re not putting them out there if they’re not ready. We’re not putting them in harm’s way,” Anderson said. “We were optimistic on the front end, and then reality sets in that these guys are not getting better as quickly as they would like or we would like. We’re calling it. We’re not putting them out there even though I think some of them would have tried to play. It would not have been safe.”
Ahead of Saturday’s game against Coastal Carolina, Anderson said his team is now “close to full strength.”
“We’ve come out of it stronger than when we went in,” Anderson said. “Guys are excited to play. We’re feeling better. We had a really good practice [on Sunday]. I feel like we’re coming over the hurdle and starting to look like ourselves.”
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