The University of Utah men’s basketball team’s Nov. 27 season-opener is in serious doubt, as is everything else moving forward.
According to a CBS Sports report on Friday night, the Utes are pausing for the foreseeable future due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the program. The athletic department would not confirm CBS Sports’ reporting, but multiple sources told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday that there have been multiple positive COVID-19 tests recently.
Per an athletic department spokesman, the men’s basketball program will continue testing through the weekend before taking stock of where things stand on Monday.
On Nov. 13, in the middle of Utah’s football game at UCLA being canceled, Utes athletic director Mark Harlan revealed that multiple antigen tests conducted within the men’s basketball program came back positive. PCR COVID-19 testing was done in an effort to confirm the positive tests. The PCR results were due back on Nov. 14, but those results were never made public.
On his weekly radio show Monday evening, Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak said his team was doing individual workouts, with the hope of getting back to full practice on Wednesday. Krystkowiak’s hopes for practicing Wednesday indicated that the PCR testing results, while not publicly known, had gone well, or at least well enough to not trigger a full shutdown of his program.
Under NCAA guidelines, the college sports governing body suggests, but has not mandated, a 14-day shutdown for a basketball program if a Tier 1 individual tests positive. Tier 1 includes players, coaches and other essential personnel.
An athletic department spokesman told The Tribune on Thursday that the men’s hoops program was awaiting more clarity on testing before getting back to full practice. There was no indication during the day Friday that Utah had or would practice fully, which was followed in the evening by the CBS Sports report.
How to define CBS Sports’ usage of “for the foreseeable future” is up for discussion, but in any case, Utah’s Nov. 27 opener vs. the University of New Orleans is very much up in the air. Beyond the Pioneers, the Utes have nonconference games contracted vs. Idaho State (Dec. 8), at BYU (Dec. 12) and vs. Utah Valley (Dec. 15), plus Pac-12 games vs. Washington (Dec. 3) and at Arizona State (Dec. 22).
The newly-drafted game contracts vs. New Orleans, Idaho State and Utah Valley include language that defines the “COVID-19 virus” as “an uncontrollable force that may affect the scheduling and performance of the game.”
In layman’s terms, if any of those three games cannot be played due to COVID-19, Utah does not pay the opponent its “guarantee game” fee. In the case of New Orleans, Utah owes the Pioneers $45,000 for the game according to the game contract, obtained by The Tribune on Friday afternoon.