But those schools were among the 13 that stopped releasing statistics about cases within their athletic programs. Indeed, some schools changed their approaches as the start of football season neared, abruptly citing privacy laws to justify withholding the very data they had provided for weeks or months. A handful offered no explanation at all.
Others, like North Carolina, said they had ultimately opted to disclose cases only through campuswide counts. Those tallies could not be used to assess the reach of the virus exclusively within athletic departments.
The University of Central Florida also merged its athletics data with broader campus counts, a change it made after players worried that infected students would be easily identified on game day, Danny White, the university’s athletic director, said this fall.
“We’re trying to listen to our student-athletes,” White said in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel.
Nineteen universities, including Coastal Carolina, Louisiana State and Northwestern, consistently declined or ignored requests for information, and The Times could not locate any case data released by those schools. Many of the schools that explicitly rejected requests offered no explanations for their decisions.
Alvarez was unsurprised that some schools had held back. As a former football coach, he said he understood. But he also said he and others at Wisconsin had concluded that ordinary hesitations should not always apply in 2020.
“I think coaches are reluctant sometimes to give out a scouting report, et cetera,” Alvarez said. “That’s old school. A lot of coaches are paranoid — that comes with the business — but we felt this was more serious.”
Reporting was contributed by Jordan Allen, Barbara Harvey, Danielle Ivory, Alex Lemonides, Alex Leeds Matthews, Cierra S. Queen and Mitch Smith.