In the past week, BYU football opened its 2020 season with a dominating 55-3 win at Navy, earned a national ranking, postponed the upcoming Army game after players tested positive for the coronavirus and announced the addition of Louisiana Tech to the home football schedule.
The pandemic has made everything fluid, and the Cougars have had to adapt to constant change.
“This year has been a wild ride, and we’re still in it,” offensive lineman James Empey said. “We’re still on a rollercoaster, still going through the ups and downs. And really, the best thing you can do is take everything with a positive mindset and moving forward and making the best out of any situation.”
The team didn’t say how many players tested positive, though Tribune columnist Gordon Monson reported that sources said it was about 10. During Monday’s news conference, coach Kalani Sitake did say of the positive cases among the team, the majority have been asymptomatic.
Also, the positive cases emerged after the Navy game.
Everyone on the chartered flight to Annapolis, Md., got tested before leaving Provo and tested negative. After returning, that’s when some tests came back positive and, because of the stricter guidelines in the state of New York, the decision was made to postpone the game against Army.
“We felt like this was the right move to do, is postpone the game knowing this is a moving target and things have kind of changed day-to-day, week-to-week surrounding the pandemic and surrounding this virus specifically,” Sitake said. “… I’m still fully confident that we as a football program and sports medicine department and school have done all the right things leading up to this point, including making this decision to postpone the game.”
However, Sitake was adamant that the latest hiccup with the schedule isn’t an indication that the season is in jeopardy.
“This isn’t ‘stop,’ this is ‘wait,’” Sitake said. “We’re going to keep playing until they say ‘stop.’ They haven’t said ‘stop’ yet. And if we continue doing our part, we can continue to play, although it’s going to be a little different.”
The Cougars will change their approach to practices for the time being.
The Black Knights run a similar option offense to Navy’s, which was going to make preparation easier, but will now have to switch gears to Troy instead. Troy plays a traditional offense.
The Cougars will also avoid team practices until it is safe to do so and instead conduct small-group workouts. Sitake hopes to be able to get back on the field by next week.
“Some individuals, depending on how everyone tests out, will be limited and may not even return until then,” Sitake said. “Even if players are late coming back, we want to make sure that they’re safe and not at risk for anyone else, but also for themselves.”
If both programs are able to reschedule, the only possibilities for both BYU and Army would be Nov. 28 or Dec. 5. The Black Knights have a pretty full schedule until then and BYU, on Monday, added Louisiana Tech to an opening the Cougars had. The Bulldogs will visit Provo Oct. 2.
Neither school has ever met in football, but Louisiana Tech has been a member of Conference USA since 2013. The Bulldogs finished the 2019 season with a 10-3 record, closing it out with a 14-0 win over Miami in the 2019 Independence Bowl.
With the addition of Louisiana Tech, the Cougars are now set to host six games this season. Kickoff times and broadcast plans will be announced at a later date, as will additional games when finalized.
“We are fortunate that Louisiana Tech had an open date on its schedule which provided an opportunity for them to travel to Provo,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “We look forward to the matchup with the Bulldogs who are coming off a 10-win season.”