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WVU professors prepare for new challenges with students return near

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The leader of West Virginia University’s Faculty Senate said professors found themselves in a very challenging time with changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re all used to our rhythms, we’re used to having the things we always do, and those things have been repeatedly disrupted and that’s a challenging place to be,” Faculty Senate Chair Nathalie Singh-Corcoran, a WVU English professor, said on MetroNews “Talkline.”

WVU announced plans last week to delay the fall semester by a week and bring mainly freshmen, graduate and professional students to campus for in-person classes. WVU plans online and hybrid courses for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Singh-Corcoran said some of the changes have been well-received by the faculty.

“The effort to try to de-densify the campus even further are the right ones,” Singh-Corcoran said. “Given what’s happened over the past few weeks in Mon County with our virus rates.”

Nathalie Singh-Corcoran, WVU Faculty Senate Chair, talks with @HoppyKercheval about WVU’s reopening plan for the fall. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/LEnhA0mcAR

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 29, 2020

The university has reserved Arnold Hall with a 170 person capacity to serve as quarantine site and Singh-Corcoran believes staff, faculty and students will be exposed to the virus at some point.

“Some of those students may indeed be positive for COVID and then have the potential to pass around the virus to others,” she said. “Others who may be vulnerable, particularly faculty who are teaching face-to-face.”

The abrupt switch to online classes in the spring was a proving ground for remote learning and Singh-Corcoran said many were lessons were learned that will be put into practice.

“Our fall online courses will be far different from what happened in the spring,” Singh-Corcoran predicted. “Because, we will have had more time to think through how to translate our in-person courses to online courses.”

She admitted there is some hesitation about going into the classroom.

“There’s some reluctance to teaching in-person,” Singh-Corcoran said. “It’s because risk can only mitigated, it can’t be eliminated.”

Fall semester classes begin Aug. 26. Incoming freshmen will be allowed to move into dorms between Aug. 15 and Aug. 22.

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West Virginia needs more than one debate between Justice and Salango

Every election cycle there is a debate over debates.

Typically, comfortable incumbents or candidates with a lead try to minimize the importance of head-to-head meetings with their opponents. Often, the front-runner will agree to only one, so they can say they debated.

Challengers usually push for more debates, sometimes an unreasonable number. They want to try to elevate themselves to an equal footing with their opponent while generating as much earned media as possible.

In West Virginia, Democratic Gubernatorial challenger Ben Salango announced Friday he has accepted five debate invitations, and he wants to meet incumbent Republican Governor Jim Justice at each one.

“Governor Justice and I have a lot to discuss,” Salango said.

The Justice campaign called Salango’s challenge a political stunt.  “It’s not uncommon when a candidate is losing, and voters learn about their views to want to change the subject,” the Justice campaign said.

Alright, let’s sort this out.

This is a real race. Salango won a tough primary and has demonstrated that he is a vigorous campaigner with his own ideas and resources to push his message. Justice had an overwhelming victory in the Primary Election and now is asking voters for a second term, but this time as a Republican.

Justice and Salango have both agreed to one debate October 13, sponsored by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association. That debate will be one hour long and follow a traditional format.

I will once again be the debate moderator. Having moderated previous gubernatorial and U.S. Senate debates, I can assure you that one debate is not enough to cover all the issues or give the candidates enough opportunities to explain themselves.

A second debate would be invaluable. That way the questioners could use the candidates’ answers from the previous debate, fact check, and push beyond the well-rehearsed talking points.

And after that, how about a third debate with a different format? This head-to-head could be a two-hour long virtual town hall with questions from voters.

Two traditional debates and a town hall would give West Virginians plenty of opportunities to see where the candidates stand and how they conduct themselves under pressure.

Justice frequently dismisses what he does not like about governing as “politics,” and he threw shade at Salango Friday as “a young guy who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.”

If that is really the case, Justice should be anxious for opportunities to dismantle his opponent on a debate stage.

The state has myriad challenges beyond the historic pandemic—roads and broadband, public education, jobs and economic growth, declining population, on and on. West Virginia’s chief executive wields tremendous power to deal with those challenges.

Ultimately, this campaign is not about what is best for the candidates or their campaigns, but rather what is best for West Virginians. These two candidates should meet each other face-to-face at least two, and hopefully three, times so the voters can make the best decision.

There should be no debate about that.

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Homeschoolers gearing up for SSAC activities

BECKLEY, W.Va. –Homeschool students from at least 20 counties in West Virginia are taking advantage of the new law that allows them to participate in West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC) activities.

Jamie Buckland

They are doing so under a new state law  that was approved by state lawmakers earlier this year.

“We have been working with school boards, guidance counselors, SSAC, principals, to make sure that everyone is on the same page. To know what is expected of them, to show their proof of residency, to make sure they know they only get to play at their zone school,” homeschoolers legislative liaison Jamie Buckland, of Raleigh County, told MetroNews.

To have an opportunity to go out for a team or to participate in any other extra-curricular activity, the law requires homeschooled students to register with their county board of education and prove through an accepted standardized test that they scored within or above the fourth stanine in each of five required subjects including science, social studies, math, reading and language. Buckland said the pandemic has made it difficult for homeschool families to obtain the test scores but some have.

Buckland said she’s heard from families in at least 20 of the 55 counties who have students participating in public school sports summer practices and conditioning.

The law also includes language similar to the SSAC transfer rule. A student leaving public school to be homeschooled would have to sit out 365 days before being eligible to play sports.

Other requirements include enrollment in at least one virtual school class through the public school system or the state Department of Education and homeschooled students are restricted to participate in the school zone in which they live.

Increase in homeschoolers expected because of pandemic

Meanwhile, Buckland predicted the ongoing pandemic will increase the numbers of families opting for homeschooling at least for this school year.

“Some of the families have children with asthma or have elderly grandparents who live them so they are genuinely concerned about COVID transmission in schools,” she said. “Some of the families just not trusting there cannot be a sustainable plan by the government for public schools.”

Buckland said her advice for first time homeschoolers is to start small.

“Figure out what is really important, what your priorities are for your family and even for your student,” she said. “If you have a struggling reader or a child struggling in math, start small. Meet them where they are, do not try to recreate school at home.”

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Removal of catch and release restrictions highlight fishing changes for 2021

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia anglers will want to brush up on some changes approved by the Natural Resources Commission to fishing regulations in the state, particularly the catch and release status on a couple of well known stretches.

During Sunday’s meeting, the Commission narrowly approved a measure to remove the catch and release status for black bass on the New River from the I-64 Sandstone Bridge downstream to the Grand View sandbar. It was a narrow vote of 4-3 to approve the measure. Commissioners Pete Cuffaro, Dave Milne, Kenny Wilson, and B.K. Chambers voted for the change. Commissioners Jeff Bowers, Greg Burnette, and Tom Dotson opposed the idea.

However in a separate recommendation, Commissioners voted unanimously to establish a 14 to 22 inch slot limit for all black bass in the New River from the Virginia State Line to Gauley Bridge, excluding Bluestone Lake from Bluestone Dam upstream to the mouth of Indian Creek.

Those changes were among ten proposed changes put forward by the Division of Natural Resources biologists.  Another measure which won approval Sunday may or may not be finalized.

The Natural Resources Section of DNR recommended removing the catch and release restriction for trout on Shavers Fork for 0.9 miles in the Stuart Recreation Area. However, Commissioner Wilson made a motion to amend the recommendation and also remove a 4.3 mile section of the Cranberry River from the confluence of the North and South Forks of Cranberry downstream to the mouth of Dogway Fork from the catch and release restriction as well.

“People have been asking to be able to keep a few fish in there to eat while they are in there camping. A lot of people have wanted the wilderness type experience to camp, and catch a few fish and eat them. That’s why I proposed it,” said Wilson after the meeting.

Wilson’s amendment was approved and the entire motion passed. However, after the meeting, DNR Director Steve McDaniel indicated the motion may not have been allowable since it was not presented to the public with adequate notice for comment.

“Proper public notice was not given by the agency of a proposed change to a regulation and therefore the public was not given an opportunity to comment on the proposed change. We will ask the Commission to address this error at its October meeting,” said McDaniel after the meeting.

The rest of the proposed changes were approved on a voice vote without much discussion. Those included:

–Establishment of a 30 fish creel limit and 60 fish possession limit for crappie, all species of sunfish, yellow perch, and all other fish not under a current limit.

–Removal of the 12 inch size limit on black bass from Wallback Lake.

–Removal of the season for dip netting to allow for them to be used year round.

–Establish a four-fish daily limit with a 15 inch minimum size for all moronidae species; striped bass, white bass, and hybrid striped bass on the Kanawha River from the confluence of the New and Gauley River downstream to the Buffalo Bridge.

–Removal of Buffalo Creek in Fayette County from the fly-fishing only designation.

–A two fish daily creel limit for all trout in Stephens Lake in Raleigh County.

–All other fishing regulations unchanged from 2020 are approved.

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Proposal to lower W.Va. buck limit narrowly fails

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After more than four years of debate and controversy, a vote to lower the number of bucks West Virginia hunters can kill from 3 to 2 was voted down Sunday. The buck limit was the final item on the agenda of the Natural Resources Commission’s third quarterly meeting of of 2020 and came out of Director Steve McDaniel’s remarks.

“This has been a controversial subject to say the least. We have heard from both sides since I got here, and it’s something that many people are very passionate about. We have surveyed the public ad nauseam. There have been three surveys and all three found a small majority, in the 50 percent range, favored lowering the limit,” McDaniel told Commissioners.

Public comments leading up to the vote were made via email or through the U.S. Mail. The vote was delayed from May until Sunday to enable more comment. According to McDaniel the agency received 1,123 comments on lowering the buck limit. Fifteen of those comments could not be accepted since the submissions had no viable email or physical address. He reported to the commission 72 of the comments opposed lowering the limit, but 1,022 were in favor of the action. He had the substantial stack of printed comments at his side during the meeting.

Commissioner Jeff Bowers raised the question about the potential financial impact of lowering the limit from 3 to 2.

“Whoever kills a buck in archery season will not buy an extra buck stamp for gun season,” said McDaniel. “Last year that would have cost us about $87,000. Over a three year period the cost would have been about $800,000 by our administration’s look at sales.”

But McDaniel also noted the agency in the past three years has seen significant revenue improvement. Those have come in the area of increased fishing license sales from 2019 and in oil and gas lease royalties and bonuses. The agency saw about a Million dollar increase in operating expenses since 2017 and Capital expenditures have jumped significantly. It’s expected those will do so for a couple more years as the state’s hatcheries undergo modernization and upgrades. But McDaniel said the royalty payments have put the agency on solid financial footing for the time being.

“If you’re going to do it, now would be the time to do it. The agency is fiscally sound and right now from a financial standpoint, we are in pretty good shape,” McDaniel said.

“I have over the last two years probably personally spoken to 200 plus people.  The vast majority don’t oppose lowering it from three to two, but a further reduction, I found no one in favor of that.  They felt three to two was reasonable, but you’re hearing a lot on social media about this being the ‘first step,'” said Bowers.

McDaniel admitted going as far as lowering the limit to one buck in West Virginia was something he too would oppose.

“I think if you did a study on that, you wouldn’t find that many in favor.”  McDaniel said.

Commissioner Pete Cuffaro, who joined the meeting via Zoom, is a Class Q license holder. He questioned whether various license class holders would lose the opportunity of taking a buck which they were promised when the license was issued. Those groups include senior lifetime license holders and veterans.

“As we’ve been selling license, we’ve changed bag limits. Lifetime license, you’re purchasing the privilege to hunt and bag limits are subject to change. But I will tell you lowering the buck limit will NOT lower the number of deer you can take. You can actually harvest 11 deer with various seasons and controlled and urban hunts in the state,” said McDaniel.

“But as a Class Q holder, I’m going to be out a buck. That answers my question.” Cuffaro said.

The motion, made by Commissioner Tom Dotson, called for lowering the buck limit from 3 to 2 in 44 counties. The four southern West Virginia archery only counties are already at a one buck limit. The motion also reflected concerns from DNR staff about lowering the buck limit in the CWD containment zone of the eastern panhandle. The motion exempted those seven counties.

Commissioner Kenny Wilson asked for a roll call vote. Commissioners Wilson, Dave Milne, and Cuffaro voted against the measure. Commissioners Greg Burnette, Dotson, and Bowers voted for it. Commissioner B.K. Chambers, joining the meeting via Zoom, cast the deciding vote against the proposal which struck it down 4-3.

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Perdue’s office rolls out new unclaimed property management system
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As more Americans and West Virginians go without claiming certain properties, West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue has unveiled an enhanced unclaimed property management system online.
According to his office, people searching for unclaimed property online can upload documents directly to the website and track a claim throughout the entire claim process.

“I am excited about the new system, excited about what we are doing with unclaimed properties and really putting the checks and balances, accountability, and technology in place that will help the people of this find their money,” Perdue told MetroNews.

John Perdue
Other new features include mobile compatibility for smartphones and tablets, improved online reporting for unclaimed property holders, and stronger security protections for both holders and claimants, a release said.
“They can go online, track it and track it like a package through the mail. You will be able to track your claim through the process and know when you’re going to get that check in the mail and get your money,” Perdue said.
Unclaimed property is any asset from which an individual or entity has become separated, Perdue said. Examples include items from abandoned safe deposit boxes, uncashed stock dividends, dormant bank accounts, forgotten utility deposits or life insurance proceeds. Unclaimed property does not include real estate.
Businesses and other entities are required to turn unclaimed assets over to the State Treasurer, by law. According to Perdue, West Virginia’s Unclaimed Property program currently holds approximately 2.25 million accounts worth $308 million.
Perdue has returned more than $224 million in unclaimed property during his time as treasurer. He said it remains more important than ever to look for unclaimed property.
“One out of every 10 people in America has an unclaimed property,” Perdue said. “That says something how we misplace things and lose things. Now there is more and more opportunity to get that back and I really believe that is going to change things all over the country.”
Citizens can visit www.wvtreasury.com to conduct a free unclaimed property search. Click HERE for the new website.

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Fairmont State announces phased plan for fall semester

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Officials from Fairmont State University have announced a phased plan for the beginning of classes for the fall semester. The action is taken with an abundance of caution and is expected to have a minimal impact on the academic calendar.

“The executive leadership team of the university and the emergency management team have spent probably the longest days and nights of our lives,”President Mirta Martin said.”Trying to thoroughly discuss, vet and research best practices.”

Fairmont State University Mirta Martin

The start of the fall semester has been delayed to August 17, some class delivery may vary depending on the class or professor. However, all classes will be held and live streamed during their scheduled time during the week of August 17.

The Office of Residence Life will be sending information about move-in times and dates via Fairmont State email to all students with an on-campus housing assignment for this fall.

“We want to control how many students are on our campus moving in at any one time,”Martin said.”So, we can protect all those who are coming back to Fairmont State and reduce the density as much as possible.”

More information will follow regarding on-campus testing locations and testing procedures.

The university is working with the state to coordinate and conduct the testing program. Students who live on campus that test positive will specific areas to isolate in and off-campus students will be sent home.

“For students living in apartments for example, we will most likely allow them to shelter in place with their roommates,”Martin said.

According to Martin, Lloyd White from the Marion County Health Department has walked the campus, classrooms and other areas to provide advice and guidance. President and CEO of Mon Health, David Golberg , also the chairman of the Fairmont State University Board of Governors has also provided access to health professionals to offer more expertise and input on the return to class plan.

“Under the leadership of David Goldberg we have gained information that supports and augments the information that Lloyd White has been providing us,” Martin said.

President Martin also said plans are still in place to have some form of Falcon football this fall, but everything is subject to change in a pandemic world.

“Implement practice in September and with God’s help have the first contest in October,”Martin said.”If that changes then we pivot with it.”

GROUP 1—Will attend in-person classes beginning August 17
Group 1 includes all first-time freshmen, all freshmen rank, international students, nursing students, education majors student teaching in the fall 2020 semester

NOTE: Some student employees and graduate assistants will be notified by their dean or supervisor to return in group 1.

August 9-11
Move-in for Group 1 residential students
Mandatory testing is required for:
Residential students living in on-campus housing
International students
Out-of-state students
August 10-13
Additional programming added for Group 1 residential students

August 14-16
Welcome Weekend—the first major programmatic event that students will experience at Fairmont State. These events – including Convocation = are designed for all new students living on and off campus or transferring into Fairmont State.

August 17
Classes begin with in-person course delivery for all populations

GROUP 2—Will attend virtual classes Aug. 17-21; In-Person, on-campus classes begin August 24
Group 2 includes sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

August 16-18
Move-in for Group 2 residential students
Mandatory testing is required for:
Residential students living in on-campus housing
International students
Out of state students
August 17
Virtual attendance begins (including but not limited to live stream and recorded content)—first-week only

August 24
Face-to-face attendance for classes begins

Please continue to monitor your campus email if you are a member of a student population that is required to be tested for COVID-19.

Fairmont State has close partnership with the Marion County Health Department, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC), Office of the Governor, and West Virginia DHHR to monitor the current spread of COVID-19.

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Small business survey shows owners looking for additional financial support

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The majority of small business owners across the country have used their entire Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and most are looking for more support.

The NFIB Research Center released a survey recently on the state of small business and the PPP loan.

The PPP loan application is set to close on Aug. 8 after Congress extended the deadline to allow more small business owners to participate, according to the survey.

The numbers highlighted in the survey include 71 percent of small business owners have used their entire PPP loan. However, 46 percent of borrowers say they anticipate needing additional financial support in the next six months.

Gil White, the West Virginia state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said his organization is asking federal lawmakers to help soon.

Gil White

“Do the right thing, set the partisan politics to the side,” White said on a recent appearance on MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

“Achieve what is desperately needed and that is to continue to give economic longevity and prosperity to these small business owners that play a vital role throughout each community here in West Virginia.”

VIEW: The NFIB Research Center survey results

The NFIB Research Center highlighted in the survey that borrowers are now waiting for lenders to start accepting loan forgiveness applications.

The SBA has recently issued processing instructions and just over one-third of small business borrowers plan to use the EZ form. Another 61% are not sure if they will use the EZ form or the long-form, according to the NFIB.

White said there is good and bad news with the results of the survey.

“Almost half of our owners are reporting they feel that financially they are back to where they were before the shutdown. That’s encouraging at face value because from March to where we are, a lot has certainly happened,” White said of the good news.

“On the other hand, these small owners believe that if they don’t get some additional relief, they fear that 23 percent of them will either shut down or be forced to continue with furloughs or permanent layoffs.”

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DHHR adds COVID-19 death, marking more than a dozen in the past week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) reported an additional COVID-19 death Sunday morning.

In its daily report, the DHHR said a 79-year old male from Kanawha County died due to the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 117. There have been 14 deaths reported in the past week.

“We join with the family in grieving the passing of this gentleman,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary in a release.

119 new COVID-19 cases were added to the state total now sitting at 6,854, which is 2.35 percent of the roughly 291,000 tests that have been given.

The DHHR listed the daily positive test rate at 3.00 percent.

Cases per county (Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (29/0), Berkeley (633/22), Boone (77/0), Braxton (8/0), Brooke (61/1), Cabell (319/9), Calhoun (6/0), Clay (17/0), Doddridge (4/0), Fayette (129/0), Gilmer (16/0), Grant (76/1), Greenbrier (87/0), Hampshire (74/0), Hancock (95/4), Hardy (53/1), Harrison (192/1), Jackson (157/0), Jefferson (284/5), Kanawha (809/13), Lewis (26/1), Lincoln (67/1), Logan (148/0), Marion (172/4), Marshall (123/2), Mason (46/0), McDowell (36/1), Mercer (164/0), Mineral (108/2), Mingo (125/2), Monongalia (900/16), Monroe (18/1), Morgan (25/1), Nicholas (30/1), Ohio (252/0), Pendleton (36/1), Pleasants (7/1), Pocahontas (40/1), Preston (100/23), Putnam (166/1), Raleigh (183/6), Randolph (204/3), Ritchie (3/0), Roane (14/0), Summers (6/0), Taylor (52/1), Tucker (10/0), Tyler (12/0), Upshur (36/2), Wayne (182/2), Webster (3/0), Wetzel (40/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (224/11), Wyoming (23/0).

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 10:00 a.m., on August 2, 2020, there have been 291,071 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 6,854 total cases and 117 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWVhttps://t.co/YckjjjqFKO pic.twitter.com/T91baAv7kX

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) August 2, 2020

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Answers to schedule shuffling questions could come soon for WVU and Marshall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There are few certainties in college football scheduling as we enter the month of August. In the Big 12, a fuzzy picture could become much more clear following a meeting of school presidents on Monday.

For West Virginia, athletic director Shane Lyons knows the Mountaineers will not play Florida State or Maryland as originally scheduled and they will not be making a trip to Atlanta. Eastern Kentucky remains on the schedule and the Colonels are still expected to come to Morgantown on September 12. If the Big 12 school presidents go against the trend of other major conferences and opt to play a full twelve-game slate, Lyons is looking at numerous options.

“We are probably looking for a home game,” Lyons said. “We have to be able to see what the council of presidents will do. If you look at the other ‘Autonomy 5’ conferences, there has been a delay in the start of the season. I don’t know for sure what our presidents will do on Monday night. So I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But I have been contacted by a number of institutions interested in playing.

“We entered this week still wanting to play all twelve games. We understand that the conference portion is very important and we have to make sure that we get that right. With other athletic directors, I do think that they are optimistic they will play starting September 5th.”

.@WVUADLyons speaks with @HoppyKercheval about WVU’s football scheduling for 2020. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/Tq9NaVqD3B

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 31, 2020

Assuming that West Virginia will be able to host their full conference slate of five games in Morgantown, seating capacity at Milan Puskar Stadium will fall short of initial expectations.

“At one time, we were hoping to be at least fifty percent. But with the way things are right now, I don’t think that is going to be an option. If we go to social distancing, we are probably looking at 20 to 25 percent capacity. We have a few weeks until we have to make sure of that question.”

Meanwhile in Huntington, it looks like Marshall and their Conference USA rivals will have an opportunity to play a full twelve game schedule.

“We’re staying right where we are at,” said Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick. “If it gets to that point where I can only find two other teams other than our eight conference games, I can play Conference USA games that will not count as a conference game. For example, we don’t play UTEP. We don’t play San Antonio, We don’t play Southern Miss. We don’t play North Texas.”

.@TheHerdAD talks to @HoppyKercheval about Marshall’s football scheduling for 2020. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/eFdYFGbvVM

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 31, 2020

The Herd are scheduled to visit East Carolina in a ‘Week Zero’ game on August 29. That game, as well as matchups at Ohio and at home against Boise State will be played. Their home game versus Pittsburgh on September 12 cannot be played due to ACC policy prohibiting its schools from leaving their home state to play a non-conference game.

West Virginia and Marshall currently share a week without a scheduled opponent on September 5.

“I have always been open to playing West Virginia in football,” Hamrick said. “But they have their issues with scheduling and how they do things. And we do also.

“My dilemma right now as we speak is I lost a home game.”

Marshall began official preseason practice on Friday. Hamrick has been encouraged with recent rounds of student-athlete COVID testing.

“You can try to mitigate the virus that we are dealing with in a lot of ways. And we are doing that. Let’s just hope it works so we can play college football this fall.

“We tested 104 student-athletes a week ago and we had zero positives. So our kids are doing a good job. Now that can change and it can change overnight. And that’s what you have to be on top of and that’s why our philosophy from day one is that we are going to test, test, test and test until we can’t test anymore.”

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