LAWRENCE — When Chris Hughes recalls his experiences with the nasal swab method of coronavirus testing, the Kansas football offensive lineman can’t help but chuckle.
Hughes doesn’t, however, mince his words on the subject.
"That nose test, it’s different," Hughes said. "That’s the longest 10 seconds of your life."
KU currently tests three times a week, head coach Les Miles said Thursday, but much to the delight of Hughes and many of his Jayhawk teammates, the program has transitioned to a far less invasive method that simply requires players to spit into a vial. Hughes, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound senior, described the approach as "a lot more comfortable."
Of the 117 individuals tested since early June, a total of 40 positive tests have resulted. A portion of that number came from individuals testing positive multiple times throughout the course of their infection, meaning the number of total cases isn’t 40, an athletic department spokesperson later clarified.
No KU players are currently isolated or in quarantine, Miles said. The Jayhawks are scheduled to open their season against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 12 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
"With the encouragement of (Kansas Team Health), we are making our players as safe as they can be," Miles said. "They’re safer on the field than they would be in another position."
"When I say our coaching staff has handled it probably the best in the country, I wholeheartedly can say that, because they were on it with Zoom calls, trying to get together as much as we can with social distancing and stuff like that," Hughes said. "I mean, they handled it amazingly. ...
"There was no lag in anything. They kind of just kept rolling with it, just rolling with the punches very good."
Hughes was one of two Jayhawks selected to represent the team in recent question-and-answer sessions with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, other conference officials and medical experts. While some of his inquiries were unanswerable, Hughes praised the conference for its candidness.
"There was no sugarcoating," Hughes said. "There was no, ‘Hey, we’re going to deflect and not answer this question, that question.’ It was very cut and dry, like, ‘Hey, we hear you guys, we understand it.’ "
The Big 12 last week announced its intention to proceed with fall sports, also rolling out a nine-game conference schedule. That decision differed from earlier calls by two fellow Power Fives, the Big Ten and Pac-12, to postpone their seasons amid concern over potential long-term effects of the virus.
Bowlsby said "nobody" has told his conference that it would be "poorly advised" to move forward, a message that, along with information about best practices and protocols, seems to have been relayed to the player representatives.
"Mainly just people saying, ‘OK, is it safe, yes or no? It is? OK, well, let’s play,’ " Hughes said. "... (We said) ‘Hey, we’re ready for when you guys have answers for us, and we’re ready to play.’ That was kind of like the vibe of the whole thing."
As the preseason ramps up, players from across the country are dealing with the challenge of trying to forge meaningful bonds with teammates in socially distanced settings — "It’s very contradicting, I know, but (we’re) but we’re still trying to stay close, stay a team, stay smart," Hughes said.
Part of staying smart, Miles stressed, is avoiding much of what is typically commonplace in college life.
"We need them to stay clear of going to parties, whatnot," Miles said. "The new young people that are coming onto our campus to go to school, we need to make sure ... that interaction (with them) is nonexistent. If we can do that, we will save ourselves a number of positive tests."
Miles said he has at times sensed fatigue from players, though that hasn’t been as prevalent in the days since the Jayhawks’ practice and season schedules were solidified.
"I think as we get closer and closer to game day I think there’s some enjoyment that we have a game to play and a competitive fever, if you will," Miles said. "This is our opportunity, and there are some really quality conferences in this country not playing football, and we’re pretty fortunate to be playing. …
"I’m glad we have a chance to play a football season at this point in time, because I think it makes it more normal."