Utah will not divulge game-day positive COVID-19 tests of football players

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham before watches his team warm up, before PAC-12 action between the Utah Utes and the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

On Saturday morning, per the Pac-12′s game-day testing protocols, a third-party administrator, SafeSite, will conduct antigen testing for the University of Utah football team.

If the Utes have a positive antigen test come back on Saturday morning, SafeSite has enough capacity to conduct two rapid-result PCR tests per hour in an effort to confirm the positive antigen test.

However testing shakes out on Saturday morning ahead of Utah’s season opener vs. Arizona (1:30 p.m., ESPN2), neither Kyle Whittingham, nor the athletic department are going to make the results public knowledge.

“We won’t divulge that, that’s just how we operate,” Whittingham said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters when asked specifically if Utah would divulge who will not be playing Saturday due to a positive COVID test. “There’s no reason to divulge who’s playing and who’s not. When we get to the point where we’re like the NFL and you have to make an injury report, then we’ll have to do that, but it makes no sense to divulge anything more than you need to.”

In fairness, Utah’s athletic department opting not to divulge positive COVID-19 tests, or any COVID-19 test results for that matter, is not something new.

Once the Pac-12 said on May 26 that it would allow voluntary workouts beginning June 15, the University of Utah laid out its plan to reintroduce student-athletes on a voluntary basis. The six-page plan included a multi-tier schedule for when players would return, testing protocols, and an illness policy, which includes quarantine procedures.


At Rice-Eccles Stadium

When • Saturday, 2 p.m.


At the time, Utah’s COVID-19 student-athlete reentry plan was viewed as transparent, thorough, prudent, and answered most if not all questions people had. On Sept. 3, the Pac-12 announced rapid-result, daily-antigen testing was on the way to all league athletic departments. Utah has also moved through that process, which includes a weekly PCR test for all football and basketball players, in a careful manner and has now arrived at the doorstep of starting its football season.

In the middle of all of this, it is important to remember that there is no mandate from the Pac-12, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County or the state of Utah that says the athletic department has to make positive tests public.

Utah athletic director Mark Harlan has willingly taken on the weight of the decision not to make positive results public, but his athletic department has done what has been asked of it by reporting test results to the appropriate local and state health authorities.

“That’s me, I’ll own that decision,” Harlan said during a late-July Zoom call. “What I feel is most important in this matter is that we follow all the university and county and state guidelines as it relates to our testing. So any results, positive, negative, we send on to the proper authorities, and I believe that’s our obligation. I just don’t believe our student-athletes should be singled out in the population for positives and negatives, and we’ve rolled in that direction.”

Utah continues to do all the testing it can, but there is simply no guarantee that no one on the football roster is going to test positive at some point.

On Wednesday, Cal, which resides in the Pac-12 and has the same testing capabilities as Utah, reported a player tested positive for antigens, followed by his PCR test coming back positive. Extensive contact tracing began, but on Thursday, citing the league’s game cancellation policy, the Pac-12 announced Saturday evening’s Cal-Washington game had been cancelled.

On more of a national level, Heisman Trophy frontrunner and presumptive 2021 No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence missed last week’s game vs. Boston College and will not play Saturday vs. Notre Dame after testing positive for COVID-19.

“They hear it ad nauseum from us as coaches,” Whittingham said last week in regards to his players continuing to stay safe. “They hear it from me every time we have a gathering of the entire team before practice, after practice. They hear it from their position coaches in their position meetings, they hear it from their coordinators in their unit meeting. It’s a constant reminder and a constant, I don’t want to say battle, but I believe our guys are doing a great job keeping themselves out of harm’s way, and the test results will bear that out. It is something that we continually remind them of, harp on it, educate them with any new information we get.”


Junior tight end Brant Kuithe, Utah’s leader in receptions (34), receiving yards (602) and receiving touchdowns (6) in 2019, was named preseason All-Pac-12 first team on Thursday morning.

Kuithe was one of eight Utes honored by the league, with junior offensive lineman Nick Ford also picking up first-team honors. Kuithe was All-Pac-12 second team in 2019, while Ford was All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

All eight of Utah’s All-Pac-12 nods are below.

First team: Brant Kuithe (TE), Nick Ford (OL)

Second team: Orlando Umana (C), Simi Moala (OL), Mika Tafua (DL), Britain Covey (specialist; all-purpose)

Honorable mention: Britain Covey (WR), Viane Moala (DL), Devin Lloyd (LB)