RICHMOND, Ky. — The war of words continues between a former Eastern Kentucky kicker and the administration over concerns of safety within the football program over COVID-19. A disagreement that has seen three players leave the program in two days.
Landon White quit the football team on Tuesday and made an Instagram post accusing the coaching staff and administration of not keeping the team safe from the Coronavirus. He claimed the team had not been tested since July 6 and that infected players were around others and practicing.
EKU Athletic Director, Matt Roan, released a statement on Wednesday standing behind his first year head coach, Walt Wells. Roan said he continues to meet with Coach Wells "to ensure that football operations continue to adhere to local, state and health organization guidelines." Roan added that safety for the student-athletes is the primary priority.
A little after 10 PM on Thursday, White released another Instagram post doubling down on his accusations against the EKU program. In that Instagram post he said, "no one offered me any assistance." White also added that his reason for leaving was keeping his family safe.
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Response to AD Matt Roan: First I would like to say thank you to the thousands of people and players who have reached out to me from all over the country and in the college football world to offer me comfort and encouragement for posting my honest assessment of the program I love at Eastern Kentucky University. Second, thank you to the media outlets that have covered the story and been fair to me as it relates to my COVID-19 concerns at my school. I am not going to do any in person/zoom interviews with a news organization at this time, but thanks to CNN and ABC as well as many other local news station who have called or messaged me to help make sure my voice is being heard. My reaction and subsequent decision to leave the program was due to feeling my voice would not be heard otherwise. I asked for a meeting with my position coach and was given about two-three minutes to talk about the situation. I told him I was uncomfortable with the Covid-19 protocols and felt I should not be there for the health of me, my family, and my teammates. The reaction was very nonchalant and ended with him saying “I’ll run it up the chain of command”. No one offered me any assistance, No one said here are your options or what happens to me as it relates to playing career in the future. No call from the athletic director to help me with my Covid-19 questions or an explanation. Not a single word except a statement defending coaches and their negligence. As of this post Covid tests have still not been done at EKU for the whole team & staff since July 6. This is now a week after fall camp started and still nothing. It’s been exactly a month.... If the health and safety of your athletes is “Primary Priority” what’s the hold up on the tests? The Athletic department said “Weekly testing will be performed.” .... I’m glad my brothers and I are doing what’s in their best interest and well as everybody else around them. This is way deeper than a game. I love my hometown, my school, and my professors. I want everyone to be healthy and the school to be successful. #DoTheyReallyCare LOVE🖤
Then, at 12:17 AM early Friday morning, the Colonels Athletic Director again responded with another statement.
Statement from EKU Director of Athletics Matt Roan (August 6, 2020)
I want to be very clear that the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and campus community is my top priority. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is misinformed and misguided. Their health and safety are always at the forefront of every decision our staff and I make, and “student-athlete focused” is the number one value of our department. My role as the AD is to support student-athletes in their academic, athletic, and personal pursuits. Our Colonel family is the most important thing to us and it is that family of people, their hard work and care for one another that is our recipe for success, and I assure you student-athletes top that list of family members.
I first became aware of Mr. White’s concerns upon receipt of his Instagram post Tuesday evening. At that point, I immediately invited the University to begin an independent, comprehensive review of our compliance. In order to protect the legitimacy of that review and final report, I am unable to contact Mr. White, and I have directed Head Coach Walt Wells do the same. I wish these concerns had been brought to each of us directly, prior to the post.
Wednesday, I met with and spoke directly to our football, men’s basketball and volleyball teams, and will speak to our soccer team Friday morning. I let them know that I was concerned by the possibility of non-compliance with our protocols, and also reminded them that my door is always open to discuss their welfare, their academic success and life goals.
I also told them that I appreciate the seriousness of this pandemic, the personal nature of it, reminded them of the role of personal responsibility, and was very clear that our entire department, including every head coach, would completely respect and accommodate any individual decision to choose to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. A few individuals have chosen to opt out the past few days. Many others in every fall sport who have spoken to me directly or indirectly have expressed a strong desire to continue forward and play. As an organization, it is our intent to do just that and provide them the best environment possible to succeed.
Testing for our entire football team was originally scheduled for Tuesday, August 4. However, due to the possibility that the NCAA Board of Governors could have canceled fall championships during their meeting that day, the decision was made to reschedule the testing. Full testing will be conducted on Wednesday, August 12. The football team will be tested each Wednesday after that based on NCAA resocialization guidelines. I appreciate our staff’s commitment and perseverance in securing testing despite occasional obstacles.
The alleged non-compliance will be examined line-by-line, all of the facts will be revealed in full and appropriate action will be taken.