Salt Lake City (ABC4 Sports) – The University of Utah football game against Arizona scheduled for Saturday afternoon has been canceled because of a number of COVID-19 cases on the team, leaving the team without enough available scholarship players due to isolation and quarantine protocols for contact tracing.
The University released the following statement Friday afternoon:
“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.”
Utah did not release the total number of players who tested positive or were unavailable due to contact tracing.
Head Football Coach Kyle Whittingham released a statement concerning the game cancellation saying, “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.”
The university’s Athletic Director, Mark Harlan, released the following statement upon 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.”
Under the Pac-12′s game cancellation policy, established a minimum of at least 53 scholarship players must be available to play, including a minimum of seven scholarship offensive linemen, one scholarship quarterback, and four scholarship defensive linemen.
The Pac-12 Conference also released a statement on Friday:
“The Pac-12 has approved a request from Utah to cancel the Arizona at Utah football game scheduled for November 7. This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy due to Utah 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. Under Conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest. The cancellation of this game, following yesterday’s cancellation of the Washington at Cal football game, is of course incredibly disappointing to our student-athletes and our fans. At the same time it is an 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.”
This is the second Pac-12 game to be canceled this week because of the virus. The Cal-Washington game was also canceled because of COVID-19 cases on the Cal team.
The Utah-Arizona game will be ruled a “no contest” with no makeup game scheduled. That means Utah will play just five games before the Pac-12 Championship Game will be decided.
The Utes next scheduled game is Saturday, Nov. 14 at UCLA. Utah still has two home games remaining against USC (Nov. 21) and Oregon State (Dec. 5).
The news comes two days after head coach Kyle Whittingham had his contract extended by four years through the 2027 season.