The weekly Sun Belt Coaches Conference had a quiet aura to it Monday. It wasn’t the exciting, analytical press conference it’s been throughout the season. Instead, heartaches came across the coaches’ faces, as they all addressed the news out of Charlottesville, Virginia, this morning.
Three Cavalier football players, wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr., wide receiver Devin Chandler and defensive end/linebacker D’Sean Perry, were shot and killed, and running back Mike Collins was injured, by U.Va. student Chris Jones on Sunday night while the players returned from a class trip to Washington, D.C., according to U.Va. police. Collins is confirmed to be in stable condition.
The alleged shooter had been over a year removed from the Cavalier football program and was arrested Monday morning. The U.Va. football program hasn’t announced any information regarding the rest of its season at this time.
Multiple Sun Belt coaches opened with the topic during their respective media availability, including JMU head coach Curt Cignetti.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the U.Va. football program, the University of Virginia and everyone in Charlottesville during this tragic and difficult time,” Cignetti said. “It certainly puts things in perspective."
“Perspective” was something said by multiple coaches during their opening statements, including Georgia Southern head coach Clay Helton and Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark. Cignetti released a similar sentiment on Twitter before the conference call began.
Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell especially opened up about his connection. He said he knew Davis Jr. from when the wide receiver was in high school and was recruited by the Chanticleers.
“Actually, he was on campus here, and I was an assistant then,” Chadwell said. “I wasn't the head coach, but we recruited him and I remember him vividly. That was actually my recruiting area, and so I know he was a fantastic player, but he was an exceptional, exceptional young man and you knew he was destined for some great things.”
Coastal Carolina and U.Va. are scheduled to play Saturday in Charlottesville for the Cavaliers’ final home game of the regular season.
Old Dominion head coach Ricky Rahne also sent condolences both on the conference call and online, as a fellow Commonwealth football program. The Monarchs and the Cavaliers played earlier this season, Sept. 17, and both Perry and Davis Jr. played in the game.
“As a coach of 112 young men & a father of 2 more, my heart is broken for the UVA football family & the families of the 3 young men whose lives were tragically cut short,” Rahne said in his tweet. “As college coaches, we help young men prepare for the future, & I’m saddened to see 3 futures needlessly end.”
Outside of the Sun Belt, former U.Va. assistant and now William & Mary football head coach Mike London spoke on the CAA’s weekly coaches call, offering “heartfelt” prayers to his former program.
The sentiments in the conference calls with Commonwealth programs echo the same message — college football stands with U.Va.
“Prayers going out to Virginia Football and to all involved after the senseless act of violence last night,” Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliot said. “Lean on each other with great strength during this horrific time.”