The University of Utah athletic department reported multiple positive COVID-19 tests within its football program on Friday morning.
Between that, and the ensuing contact-tracing protocols for a host of other players, the Utes could not hit the Pac-12′s 53-player threshold to play a game, so its season-opener on Saturday vs. Arizona was canceled.
That is what we know. What happens next, whether we’re talking about when practice resumes, if practice resumes, and the status of Utah’s game on Friday night at UCLA, is up for discussion.
Beyond athletic department-produced statements from Utes athletic director Mark Harlan and head coach Kyle Whittingham on Friday night, a department spokesperson did not have any update to provide when reached by The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday morning.
Uncertainty and doubt will persist at Utah through the remainder of the weekend, but the end of Whittingham’s statement indicates that he believes there is at least some chance that business as usual is not far off.
“Our team has worked extremely hard to get to this point, and we will continue to care for our student-athletes and follow protocols very thoroughly as we prepare for next week’s game,” Whittingham said.
Preparing on a short week to play at UCLA means the Utes have to practice. Under the Pac-12′s Health and Well-Being Considerations, initially released on Aug. 11 when the season was canceled, but updated and re-released when the seven-game schedule was announced six weeks later, “if there is an outbreak on a team due to athletic-related activity, all team activity will be halted and the team quarantined.”
Utah has done that, Harlan saying in his Friday statement that those with positive tests and those under contact-tracing protocols are being kept in isolation. From there, the question becomes, when will Utah practice next?
Citing CDC guidelines, the original Aug. 11 Pac-12 medical protocols called for a 14-day quarantine for high-risk contacts after a positive test occurs. The Pac-12 changed those protocols in the updated document, which coincided with the arrival of rapid-result, daily-antigen testing for all league athletic departments.
As it currently stands, below is what it is needed for the resumption of contact/competition, per the Pac-12.
• COVID 19 is not actively spreading uncontrolled among the school community.
• Access and ability to complete cardiac evaluation on those who do test positive (troponin, EKG,echo, CMRI)
• Testing access and capacity to satisfy testing recommendations, including the ability totest within 24 hours of competition and have results prior to that competition.
• Capability to isolate new positive cases and quarantine high-risk contacts. Campus orcommunity access to housing and food options to effectively ensure basic conditions forsuccessful quarantine and isolation.
• Adequate local health care capacity as determined by local public health officials.
• Ability to provide adequate care for the institution’s student-athletes.
Without knowing specifically how many Utah players tested positive or are under contact-tracing protocols, the football program appears to satisfy all of those bullet points, but more clarity on the situation is not expected until Monday.
The Pac-12 opened its abbreviated season on Saturday morning, but Utah-Arizona was not the only game canceled, or even affected.
On Wednesday, Cal reported that one player had tested positive, but that a slew of others could not practice due to contact-tracing protocols. The Golden Bears' season-opener Saturday night vs. Washington in Berkeley was canceled the next day, while their Nov. 14 game at Arizona is thought to be in doubt.
Utah’s next opponent, UCLA, reported one positive case via antigen and PCR testing, but nobody else on the roster was being quarantined due to contact tracing. Provided day-of-game testing came back clean, the Bruins' Saturday-evening opener at Colorado was expected to get played as scheduled.