The Washington State Cougars’ game against the Stanford Cardinal originally scheduled for Saturday has now been canceled, WSU has announced, “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 Apple Cup against the Washington Huskies, which is one week away, also likely is in significant jeopardy.
WSU athletics director Pat Chun held a virtual news conference with reporters this afternoon and confirmed that four players tested positive on Friday morning alone, and that nine players had tested positive this week after having zero positives the week leading up to the Oregon game.
“Based on a number of factors, our team has fallen below the Pac-12’s minimum threshold of 53 available scholarship student-athletes to play a game,” Chun said in a statement that was released before the news conference. “We are saddened for not only our student-athletes, coaches and staff, but those within the Stanford program, who have worked so hard preparing for this weekend. We have been in communication with the Pac-12 Conference and Stanford Director of Athletics Bernard Muir throughout the week, hoping to be able to play the game as scheduled.
“We have built health and safety protocols in consultation with campus, Pac-12 Conference, NCAA, local, state and federal guidelines, and continue to follow them, ensuring that the safety of all Pac-12 student-athletes, coaches and staff continues to be our top priority.”
Chun revealed in his interview that the positive tests came through at 11 a.m., which was right about the time the team was supposed to be boarding busses to head to the airport. How many players ended up getting caught up in contact tracing isn’t clear, but it’s not difficult to see how a roster that was already beset by COVID opt-outs, transfers and injuries fell below the 53-man limit with today’s positive tests and contact tracing.
Because the conference schedule is so tight, allowing only for seven games in seven weeks, the game is canceled and declared a no contest with no make-up.
When news broke late Thursday night that WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura would miss the game because of a positive COVID test, many fans immediately wondered if this game would be in jeopardy. But everything seemed to be cruising right along as expected, as Kyle Bonagura of ESPN tweeted around 11 a.m. that the game was on, as scheduled.
But then rumors began to circulate on Twitter that something might be amiss when the amateur flight tracking sleuths noticed that the flight that was presumed to be the Cougars’ charter from Pullman to San Jose had been canceled.
Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review then confirmed that the plane didn’t leave the ground at its scheduled time, and before long, we knew the reason why: The game had, indeed, been canceled.
“I’m disappointed for our team and our players,” WSU coach Nick Rolovich said. “They have battled through so much this year. We had a good week of practice and were excited to play this game. I recognize the pain they feel with this lost opportunity but this 2020 football team is a resilient group of young men.”