BERKELEY (CBS SF) — There was a time when the UC-Berkeley football team was considered a darkhorse to win the Pac-12 North Division. That was before COVID ravaged the team’s season.
On Friday, the conference announced for a second straight week a Golden Bears game has been cancelled. With just four games remaining on the team’s COVID shortened 2020 schedule there were mounting doubts that the team may not be able to play this year.
“This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy due to Arizona State not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols,” the conference announced. “Under Conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest.”
Cal’s entire defensive line was quarantined after coming into contact with a player who tested positive for COVID-19 last week. To travel to Arizona for Saturday’s game, the city of Berkeley would have had to lift the 14-day quarantine. As of late Thursday night, local health officials had remained silent on whether that permission would be granted in time for a Friday flight.
Head football coach Justin Wilcox abruptly canceled a scheduled press conference late Wednesday, but before that expressed frustration and wanted more clarity on protocol moving forward.
“We recognize the significance of the virus, this is not minimizing the virus,” Wilcox said. “What we want to know is how we can be better so these things don’t happen. Obviously we don’t want to spread it to the community, we want to be good neighbors.
When ESPN asked for a comment, Berkeley representatives said nothing has changed.
“The University was made aware last week of the timeline for when the case will end their isolation period and for when the contacts will end their quarantine,” city spokesman Matthai Chakko told ESPN. “The team should use that information as a timeline for return of those individuals to the field. No further direction is pending from the City.”
The quarantine is scheduled to end on Nov. 17.
Cal wasn’t the only team will COVID issues heading into the game. There have been several positive COVID-19 tests among Arizona State’s players and coaching staff, including head coach Herm Edwards.
ASU said Friday that the positive tests put the football team below 53 available scholarship players, which is the minimum allowed according to the league’s cancellation policy.
“The cancellation of a game is very difficult to accept for all of us, but it is the right decision under the circumstances,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “In every case we continue to consider the health, safety and welfare of our student-athletes as our number one priority.”
The 66-year-old Edwards said in a statement that he and his family are fine and encouraged fans to take the virus seriously.
“As I’ve stated many times over, the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes is absolutely paramount and we will not put them at risk,” Edwards said. “Our team has worked extremely hard to get to this point, and even played a game last weekend. We will continue to care for our students-athletes and follow all protocols very thoroughly as we prepare for our next game. Our team and coaching staff are disappointed, but we do understand what we are dealing with.”
The cancellation came as COVID was spreading across the college football landscape. Wisconsin was poised to return to Big 10 competition Saturday after sitting on the sidelines for two weeks.
No. 3 Ohio State’s game with upstart Maryland has been cancelled for this week along with No. 1 Alabama at LSU; No. 5 Texas A&M at Tennessee; No. 12 Georgia at Missouri; No. 24 Auburn at Mississippi State and Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech.
While disappointed, Pac-12 officials said they had no choice in the matter.
“The cancellation of this game is very disappointing to our student-athletes and our fans,” league officials said in a release. ” At the same time it is further indication that our health and safety protocols are working in identifying positive cases and contact tracing cases. While all of us want to see our football student-athletes on the field competing, our number one priority must continue to be the health and safety of all those connected to Pac-12 football programs.”