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Pat Chun: 12 Washington State athletes ‘in some kind of COVID protocol’

Patrick Chun, left, WSU's new athletic director, fields questions during an introductory press conference on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, in the Rankich Club Room at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Three more Washington State athletes have been placed in COVID-19 protocol since Friday, when athletic director Pat Chun spoke with reporters on a Zoom call in the immediate wake of the Cougars’ football game against Stanford being canceled.

As of Friday, nine WSU football players were in COVID-19 protocol, although Chun said Tuesday on the weekly radio show the school now has 12 total athletes either quarantining or isolating. It’s unclear if the additional three athletes are football, men’s basketball or women’s basketball players. It’s been WSU’s policy not to disclose if athletes tested positive for COVID-19, or came in close contact with somebody who did.

With nine football players in COVID-19 protocol as of Friday, WSU’s football team didn’t meet the 53-man threshold needed to play against Stanford.

It was later determined the Cougars wouldn’t reach that number by the Apple Cup, which was originally scheduled to take place Friday in Pullman.

On Sunday, the annual rivalry game was declared a no-contest and Washington has since rescheduled to play Utah this weekend after the Utes’ game against Arizona State was scrubbed due to COVID-19 problems in Tempe.

“Right now, we have 12 student-athletes in some type of COVID protocol,” Chun told play-by-play announcer Matt Chazanow Tuesday. “We wanted to give UW the opportunity to try to get a game and know they didn’t have to prepare for us.

“One of the challenges, too, in COVID is there’s no certainty, so out of respect to UW and just knowing the realities of where we were at, there was no point in us belaboring the point.”

While Chun’s update was not sport-specific, it can probably be inferred the others – not all three, at least – don’t belong to the men’s basketball team, which is still on track to host Texas Southern Wednesday in its season opener.

“It’s a roller coaster to get through this football season,” Chun said. “I have a lot of worries about men’s and women’s basketball.”

WSU’s next football game is slated to take place on Dec. 4 at USC. The kickoff time against the Trojans was moved to 6 p.m. to accommodate the 10 p.m. curfew recently introduced in California.

One Trojans player tested positive for COVID-19 Monday night and is showing symptoms, but no others have received a positive test to this point, or have been held out of activities for contact tracing.

“I think there’s a lot of disappointment, a lot of sadness,” WSU head coach Nick Rolovich said on the radio show. “I think this was one bright spot, and I’m speaking of the Apple Cup, that there’s people that have told me, that’s the one thing that matters to me most every year is the Apple Cup. And you feel bad for those people not being able to see it at least this week. I assume if we have an opportunity to make it, we’re going to try and get it done.”

The football team took Tuesday off and hasn’t held a true practice since Thursday. The Cougars went through an unpadded walk-through Friday in Pullman before they were scheduled to fly to San Jose, California, though their plane never left the ground.

Rolovich indicated it was important to give the team time off to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the Cougars’ locker room before regrouping to prepare for next week’s game against the Trojans.

“We’ve asked everybody for the early part of the week, let’s get some negative testing, let’s get this thing under control a little bit, let’s see how far it spread before we do anything together,” Rolovich said.

“I know we had a couple days of negatives and really it’s getting an early start at USC at this point.”