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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State running backs coach Mark Atuaia wears University of Virginia apparel in support of school struck by tragedy

Nov. 19, 2022 Updated Sun., Nov. 20, 2022 at 8:19 a.m.

Washington State running backs coach Mark Atuaia watches his team warm up before a Pac-12 game against Arizona on Saturday at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. Atuaia, a former University of Virginia assistant, was one of several college football coaches in the country to wear Cavaliers gear in a show of support for the school.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State running backs coach Mark Atuaia watches his team warm up before a Pac-12 game against Arizona on Saturday at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. Atuaia, a former University of Virginia assistant, was one of several college football coaches in the country to wear Cavaliers gear in a show of support for the school. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

TUCSON, Ariz. – Several former University of Virginia football coaches sported Cavaliers apparel this weekend to show support for a program and school that was struck by tragedy last weekend.

Washington State running backs coach Mark Atuaia, who served as Virginia’s RBs coach over the past six years, wore a bright orange Cavaliers polo during the Cougars’ game Saturday at Arizona.

Virginia football players Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry were killed in a shooting at the Charlottesville school on Sunday.

“Since that tragic Sunday, we’ve been struggling, and when I say ‘we,’ I speak of my brothers, your former coaches that were there at UVA with you,” Atuaia said, holding back tears while speaking in a video posted to social media. “We got together and came up with an idea. (Throughout the weekend), all your coaches will be wearing the ‘V Sabers,’ dressed up as if we were coaching you back in Charlottesville, to honor Lavel, Devin and D’Sean and to let you know, everybody back in Charlottesville, that distance or institutional change will never sever the relationships we’ve built.

“All of our institutions that we are currently at have been great. I know mine has. Coach (Jake) Dickert and all my brothers here have buoyed me up since that tragic day, checking up on me. And similar stories are being told by your coaches at these other institutions. A football fraternity is the best because we take care of each other, regardless of where we’re at. So, while you’re sitting at home and at that memorial, we will be working, but know our hearts are intertwined and we’re together.”

Atuaia joined Virginia’s staff in 2016 and stayed with the Cavaliers until the Cougars offered him their RB coach gig early this year. He shared a sideline with Perry for three years and Davis for two seasons. Chandler transferred to Virginia this offseason out of Wisconsin.

WSU defensive tackle Nusi Malani, who played the past two seasons at Virginia, donned a Cavaliers shirt under his pads.

Atuaia named nine other former Virginia assistant coaches who will be wearing Cavaliers gear this weekend.

The jersey numbers of the fallen Cavaliers – Nos. 1, 15 and 41 – were displayed in an orange heart logo on one side of Arizona Stadium. The 1-yard, 15-yard and 41-yard lines on the field were painted orange.

Dickert opened his weekly news conference Monday with a solemn statement, during which he offered thoughts and prayers to the University of Virginia and the University of Idaho. Four UI students were killed Sunday morning in a homicide that took place at an off-campus residence.

“The impact goes way beyond football,” Dickert said. “It impacts the people in our building, as well. Our thoughts are with them and their families. … Four young people passed away at our neighbors, the University of Idaho. Prayers out to them and their families. I take the coaching hat off and I go to the dad, the husband, the father.

“There are a lot of people hurting in this world. Our thoughts and prayers of the program are with them. It takes you back to why we’re here. I think that’s really important. We’re here for young people. Families entrust our program with their young men. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously, being a dad of three, being a husband.”

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