Pac-12 Announces Cancellation of Utah Utes vs. UCLA Bruins Game

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University of Utah senior running back Zack Moss (2) rushes with the ball after taking a handoff from University of Utah senior quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) in an NCAA Football game vs. UCLA at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday November 16, 2019.(Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The dagger continues to be pushed deeper into the hearts of Utah football fans, as for the second week in a row, the Utes game has been cancelled by the Pac-12. Originally scheduled for Friday, Nov. 13, the game against UCLA was moved to Saturday, Nov. 14 with the hope that the extra day might give Utah the opportunity to get players healthy enough in order to compete. But unfortunately, the news everyone was dreading came this afternoon as based on a high number of COVID-19 cases in the Utah football program: The game was officially cancelled.

“We also acknowledge the disappointment for our fans, and we know how upsetting it is for UCLA’s football program,” Athletic Director Mark Harlan said. “We have maintained close communication with UCLA and we were very hopeful this game would be played. As I have said from the beginning of the pandemic, the well-being and safety of our student-athletes remains our top priority and guides all of our decisions and we are following the recommendations of medical professionals.”

While there has been some questioning of the validity of tests due to the situation at Stanford where quarterback Davis Mills tested positive a day before the game against Oregon, was held out and then tested negative the day after, Mark Harlan assured that he is completely confident in the testing taking place as the athletes are being tested twice a day.

As of now, the Utah football program has 17 confirmed positive cases among players, coaches and staff, and additionally, 11 members of the program are in quarantine due to the Pac-12 contact tracing protocols. While it is a difficult situation to swallow, it is clear that the safety and overall well-being of the student-athletes is the main priority for not only the Pac-12, but the university as well.

“We went into this week knowing it was a day-to-day situation,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We have been doing everything we can under the circumstances to prepare for the game and follow all guidelines and protocols. As is always the case, the health and safety of our student-athletes come first.”

Harlan emphasized that the football program has been doing everything possible in order to follow all the correct guidelines and protocols established by Pac-12, but also recognized the latest surge of COVID-19 cases within the state of Utah as a possible reason for the amount of cases within the team.

“Medical advisors and contract tracing people are fairly confident that they are yet to find an example of it spreading within our team or practice facility,” Harlan said. “A lot of that has to do with our measures. We film practice and we can see their interactions so we feel very confident it’s not happening there. When you go through this you have to triple check all that, and of course we’ve been doing that, and will continue to do that, but quite candidly I think some of these are leading toward them being part of the community.”

Moving forward, Harlan believes there is still a lot to play for and expects the conference and season to continue. But his number one concern is getting the virus out of the program, to not only keep the players safe, but to give them an opportunity to compete and play the game they love.

Utah’s next opportunity to play will be Saturday, Nov. 21 against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium. If the game takes place, kickoff will be at 8:30 p.m. MST and will be broadcasted on ESPN.

 

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