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Apple Cup canceled because of WSU COVID outbreak

The Cougars could not reach the minimum number of players.

Washington State v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Washington State Cougars made official today what we suspected on Friday: The 2020 Apple Cup against the Washington Huskies will not be played because the Cougars cannot get to the minimum number of players by Friday.

WSU’s game against the Stanford Cardinal this weekend was canceled because the Cougars returned a number of positive COVID tests as the team was about to depart for California on Friday, and athletics director Pat Chun said today that there’s no way to see the team getting enough players back by this weekend.

“After assessing the overall status of our football program, we remain under the minimum threshold of 53 available scholarship student-athletes and cannot forecast a scenario that allows us to reach that threshold by the end of the week,” Chun said, via news release. “Earlier today I communicated with President Schulz, Commissioner Scott and Washington Director of Athletics Jen Cohen our current situation. While this is another heartbreaking week for our football program, the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches and staff remains our top priority.”

Chun did leave open the door for the possibility that the game could be played later in the season: “As we work through the remainder of our schedule, we will continue to communicate with the Pac-12 Conference and UW if any scenario would emerge that would allow us to reschedule the game at a later point in the season.”

That would seemingly only come about if both teams have games canceled on the same weekend because of outbreaks on opponents’ teams, or if the Pac-12 allows the teams to play this game during the crossover weekend, provided neither school is involved in the Pac-12 championship game.

It’s still unclear just how far below the minimum WSU is, but this certainly makes it seem as if it’s not close. We went over the various isolation periods for players who either have tested positive or come in close contact with them, and it was fairly obvious from the beginning that this was going to make a significant number of players unavailable for the game, unless some player returned false positives. That, apparently, has not happened.

Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review took a detailed look at just how easy it was for the Cougars to fall below the number because of the strangeness of this season: By his count, 20 players are unavailable simply due to COVID opt-outs, transfers, and injuries. That takes WSU down to 65, and when you add in COVID positives plus contact tracing ... it’s not hard to see how the Cougars slipped below 53.

“The Boeing Apple Cup is one of the most sacred rivalries in all of sports and one of the most meaningful days of the year for all Washingtonians,” Chun said. “It’s gut-wrenching and disappointing for our student-athletes and coaches as well as those at UW.”