UCLA Football Home Opener Scrapped Due To Opponent Utah’s COVID-19 Cases, Adding To Sport’s 2020 Headaches

The Pac-12 Conference has canceled the home opener of UCLA’s already truncated college football season, a matchup with Utah planned for Saturday at the Rose Bowl, because of positive COVID-19 tests.

The Utes did not have enough players available due to positive coronavirus tests, the conference said, and the game has been declared a no-contest. On Twitter, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan wrote that he was “devastated” for the team, its fans and “the whole state,” adding that the school had been “on the edge all week.”

After becoming the last Power 5 conference to start the season — a reversal from its initial plan to push it to 2021 — the Pac-12 now has canceled four games, matching the number it actually has managed to play.

Before the UCLA news emerged, the University of California had a game canceled for the second straight week. The Golden Bears had been scheduled to play Arizona State, whose coach, Herm Edwards, has COVID-19. Because of that and other positive tests, contract tracing protocols made playing the game an impossibility.

College football, which seemed in doubt until infection rates eased over the summer, suddenly has  become a roller-coaster ride — an unpleasant turn of events for universities, conferences and TV networks. Nearly two dozen games have been scrubbed, including high-profile contests between Alabama and LSU and Ohio State and Maryland. At the current pace, some teams could wind up playing only half as many games as they do in a normal season, and the four-team playoff could have a major asterisk attached to it, if it is even able to be played at all.

Even for casual viewers, the spectacle last Saturday night in South Bend, Indiana is hard to erase. When Notre Dame beat Clemson, its first defeat of a top-ranked rival in more than 25 years, thousands of fans poured onto the field. Even though many wore masks, it was the opposite of social distancing. Not overlooked was the fact that Notre Dame’s president had contracted COVID-19 after attending the infamous Rose Garden ceremony in September when Amy Coney Barrett was introduced as a Supreme Court nominee.

There was another ominous sign for college sports beyond the gridiron on Thursday as the Ivy League canceled all winter sports, including basketball and hockey. The league had been in the vanguard back in March, canceling its post-season basketball tournament when others soldiered on with COVID-19 starting to hit the U.S. The league said in July that is was postponing all of its fall sports, including football.

The outlook for college basketball is mixed at best, with Duke among the programs saying it plans to play games without fans.

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