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Sports >  UW football

Washington football’s season opener at Cal canceled, declared a no contest

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 5, 2020

First-year Washington head coach Jimmy Lake must wait another week to direct his team in a Pac-12 Conference game.  (Ted S. Warren)
First-year Washington head coach Jimmy Lake must wait another week to direct his team in a Pac-12 Conference game. (Ted S. Warren)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Washington was supposed to open its 2020 season against Michigan on Sept. 5.

Then Washington was supposed to open its 2020 season against Stanford on Sept. 26.

Then Washington was supposed to open its 2020 season against Cal on Nov. 7.

After all of that, the Washington Huskies are still waiting.

On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the Cal Golden Bears announced that a player on their team had tested positive for COVID-19, Saturday night’s season opener has been canceled and declared a no contest.

It’s the 41st FBS game nationally – and first in the Pac-12’s seven-game, seven-week sprint — to be either postponed or canceled.

“The Pac-12 has approved a request from Cal to cancel the Washington at Cal football game scheduled for November 7,” a Pac-12 Conference statement on Thursday read.

“This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy due to Cal not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game as a result of a positive football student-athlete COVID-19 case and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols. Under Conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest.”

In a university release, Cal stated the decision was “due to the Golden Bears’ inability to field a competitive roster following the results of one positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing.”

On Thursday, after being asked his opinion on the Pac-12 statement asserting Cal requested the game be canceled, visibly frustrated Bears head coach Justin Wilcox said: “We didn’t ‘request to cancel the game.’ We weren’t able to play the game. Maybe that’s what the paperwork says. Nobody here woke up this morning hoping not to play. I think that’s probably a poor choice of words. The contact tracing eliminated a lot of players and an entire position group. So it was not going to be feasible.”

The positive test was the program’s first since the start of daily testing at the beginning of October. As of Thursday afternoon, the student who tested positive remains asymptomatic.

Following a positive daily antigen test, the result was confirmed with a subsequent PCR test. Cal then followed contact tracing and quarantining protocols from University Health Services Infection Control and Berkeley Public Health, which eliminated too many players to field a competitive team. The Cal players currently in quarantine have all continually tested negative for COVID-19, Wilcox said.

“We were looking forward to having those contact traced players coming back, especially since they have been continuing to test negative,” he added. “But we learned today that that wasn’t going to be possible.”

The Pac-12’s minimum roster thresholds call for at least 53 scholarship players, seven scholarship offensive linemen, one scholarship quarterback and four scholarship defensive linemen to play a game.

It’s worth emphasizing that the specific contact tracing protocols that prevented Saturday’s game from being played belong to Berkeley Public Health, rather than the Pac-12 Conference. Numerous college football games have been played nationally involving teams that had players test positive the same week.

“The frustrating part is you see the differences throughout the state and the country on how these contact tracing processes are taking place,” Wilcox said.

“I think that’s where the players especially can get a little bit frustrated, as you can imagine. There’s no consistency there.

“I have talked to a number of (colleagues in coaching) – some in conference, some out of conference. I absolutely agree that there are different interpretations of contact tracing throughout the country and potentially within each state.”

UW was also willing to host the game on short notice at Husky Stadium, according to a source. But Berkeley Public Health policy would also prohibit the quarantined players from participating in a game at a road venue.

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