Runnin’ Utes avoid shutdown after positive antigen tests; schedule nearly complete

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak as the University of Utah hosts Oregon State, NCAA men's basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

The University of Utah men’s basketball team had a COVID-19 scare on Friday, but it could have been worse.

Speaking on the season debut of his weekly ESPN700 radio show, head coach Larry Krystkowiak said his team is conducting individual workouts until Wednesday, at which point he hopes to get back into full, regular practice.

Utes athletic director Mark Harlan said Friday that multiple antigen tests involving the men’s basketball program came back positive on Friday morning. PCR testing was conducted later Friday to confirm the antigen positives, but those results have not been made public by the Utah athletic department.

The fact that Utah is practicing, even if it is just individual workouts for a few days, would seem to indicate that PCR testing went well and/or the antigen positives did not include what the NCAA defines as Tier 1 individuals. Tier 1 includes players, coaches and other essential program personnel. Under NCAA guidelines, if there is a positive COVID-19 test inside a program, the college sports governing body suggests, but is not mandating, a 14-day shutdown for the entire program.

“Fingers are crossed that everybody continues to test negative that we’re working with, and then we’ll be able to have some practice on Wednesday, and then implement guys back into it when they clear the quarantine,” Krystkowiak said. “I really think we’ll be opening the day after Thanksgiving, and that’ll be an opportunity for us to get on the court and play with no fans, which might be one of the biggest adjustments.”

Earlier Monday, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a planned Nov. 25 season opener vs. Dixie State was off, although it had nothing to do with any COVID-19 concerns. Krystkowiak on Monday said the plan is to open Nov. 27, but declined to reveal the opponent.

Utah’s mystery Nov. 27 opening opponent is expected to be the University of New Orleans, multiple sources told The Tribune Monday evening. A Nov. 27 matchup vs. the Pioneers may seem out of left field, but it makes sense, given they are already scheduled to play BYU in Provo the previous day, which also happens to be Thanksgiving.

Utah already has nonconference games locked in vs. Idaho State (Dec. 8), at BYU (Dec. 12) and vs. Utah Valley (Dec. 15). Mixed in are Pac-12 games vs. Washington on Dec. 3 and at Arizona State on Dec. 22. Dates for the remaining 18 Pac-12 games are pending.

Krystkowiak revealed one critical piece of Pac-12 business during the hour-long show.

League coaches have voted in a mandate that says in order to play a game, a team must have seven scholarship players available. A Pac-12 spokesman confirmed that such a mandate is now in place, while Krystkowiak said the vote on it was 7-5 in favor of seven. The five coaches that voted against the seven were in favor of eight instead.