So close, but yet so far away. The Utah football season, which was slated to start on Saturday, will now have to wait another time for kick off, as the game against Arizona was cancelled due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the Utah football program. There has also been some question put out there whether the second game against UCLA may also be at risk. That game is slated for 6 days after the Arizona game, and if the number of positive cases are that high, I’m not sure how you can effectively quarantine and get back the number of players that are need to play the game. That’s just speculation of course, so we’ll have to wait and see how it pans out. This is the second game to be canceled, as the Cal/UW game was canceled a few days ago for the same reason, although, it sounds like the case count ism much different.
Here are the official statements from the program, Utah AD Mark Harlan, and Coach Kyle Whittingham.
STATEMENT FROM UTAH ATHLETICS
Over the last 24 hours, the University of Utah Department of Athletics has been informed of a number of positive COVID-19 cases among student-athletes within the football program, which necessitates that Utah’s game versus the University of Arizona scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7 be canceled. The decision was made following the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy as Utah does not have the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes available for the game due to the positive cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols. The health and safety of our student-athletes and all associated with our program is our highest priority and we will continue to follow all applicable Pac-12 and local health policies and guidelines.
STATEMENT FROM UTAH DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS MARK HARLAN
ON THE CANCELLATION OF SATURDAY’S FOOTBALL GAME
“The cancellation of our football game is a very difficult outcome to accept, but it is absolutely the right decision under the circumstances. While I am heartbroken for our student-athletes and everybody associated with Utah Athletics, as well as our great fans, our number one guiding principle is the health and safety of our student-athletes. This also has a significant impact on the University of Arizona football program and we extend our appreciation for their understanding of our situation.
“This morning our test results included a number of positive cases, which put our team below the Pac-12’s minimum threshold of 53 available scholarship student-athletes, under the league’s game cancellation policy. Coach Whittingham and I discussed this situation extensively, as well as with our medical advisors, and it was extremely clear that to go forward with the game would put our student-athletes at risk, and we simply will not take that risk. We immediately began a conversation with the Pac-12 office and Arizona Athletics Director Dave Heeke to make them aware of our situation and the resulting decision.
“We are continuing to take every precaution to safeguard the health and welfare of our student-athletes and staff, in accordance with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee’s procedures. Those with positive test results and those in contact tracing protocols are in isolation and receiving the appropriate care.
“We will continue to monitor our testing results and stay in close communication with our University, local public health officials and the Pac-12 Conference.”
STATEMENT FROM HEAD FOOTBALL COACH KYLE WHITTINGHAM
“As difficult as this is, there is no question it is the right decision to make. Our student-athletes’ health and well-being is absolutely paramount and we will not put them at risk. Our team has worked extremely hard to get to this point, and we will continue to care for our students-athletes and follow all protocols very thoroughly as we prepare for next week’s game.”
Ok, now that you’re through all of that, I’m going to put some of my thoughts out there. While I understand the need to play games financially, and I applaud the effort to try and get a season off the ground, plus the fact that the kids and coaches want to play, I’m more of the opinion, especially now, that this season is lost, and it may be time to just cut the losses and get ready for 2021. Without fans, bowl games being cancelled, teams missing large chunks of players, or cancelling games completely, this season seems artificial and basically pointless. What makes college football so special has been removed from the sport because of the virus. The Utes may only have four-ish games this fall/winter, and I’m just not sure if that is worth it. This game that is cancelled with Arizona may be able to be made up in that “flex” game during championship weekend, but like I stated above, the UCLA game is at risk now as well. All that is assuming that another instance won’t happen, and more games may be missed. All of that plus the fact that this is a serious health issue, and I think football is secondary to getting this thing under control. I’d love to see my alma mater out there every Saturday battling for a third consecutive division crown. I miss singing Utah man, going mad during #Pac12AfterDark, hell I even miss complaining about Pac-12 refs, but I think it may be time to move on, and work toward getting 2021 secured. 2020 just sucks, and I think it’s time to cut our losses —- but that’s just my opinion.