PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – This would have been BYU’s biggest game of the year.
The 21st-ranked Cougars were scheduled to play #22 Army this Saturday in New York, but that game was been put on hold when a number of BYU players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“On our flight to Navy, we had tested and everyone on that plane tested negative,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “On our return, we were able to test our guys and had a small number of positives. Because of that, our administration and sports medicine departments decided to postpone. It would be the responsible thing to do.”
“There is a ton of frustration,” said BYU defensive back Troy Warner. “We were all very excited to play Army. They’re a very good team and have shown a lot of upside in the beginning of their season. Although it’s unfortunate, we have a lot of faith that that game will be rescheduled.”
That could happen November 28th or December 5th. Both the Cougars and the Black Knights have openings those weekends.
“It doesn’t seem that hard,” said Sitake.
While BYU did add Louisiana Tech to its schedule on October 2nd, the Cougars next scheduled game is September 26th at home against Troy. The Cougars hope to have all players, including the ones that tested positive, available. But until then, practices are going to be different.
“We’re limited to certain groups,” said Sitake, who added that the players and coaches get tested three times a week. “Our groups are going to be 10 to 15. They can’t involve other coaches moving back and forth, and other players moving back and forth.”
Utah health officials confirmed that a big reason the number of COVID-19 cases in Utah county rose this past week was because of parties being held by college students. While it is unclear if any BYU football players attended those parties, they know they have to be held accountable, or the season will be lost.
“Just being aware of our surroundings,” Warner said. “That includes not going to those types of activities or parties. Accountability is huge for this team and especially for this year.”
“Football in itself is a game where you’ve got to trust each other,” added offensive lineman James Empey. “So, we’ve got a group of a lot of guys that believe in each other and trust each other. I think everybody is trying to do their best to keep themselves in good situations.”
“I can’t believe BYU is throwing parties,” added Sitake. “Where were they when I was a student? I like to dance.”
While the Cougars season is on pause, they are still grateful they have an opportunity to play, unlike many other schools.
“We have a lot of gratitude to be able to play right now,” Empey said. “The fact that we still get to able to play football, that’s the motivation that we need.”
“There are a lot of great football players that are not playing right now,” Sitake said. “So, I know their frustrations. This attitude that we have of appreciation and gratitude is going to continue.”