College football can’t catch a break from COVID
No. 12 Miami had its remaining three games postponed Monday because of COVID-19 cases in the program, forcing the Atlantic Coast Conference to reschedule a total of six games over the last month of the season.
Georgia Tech at Miami scheduled for Saturday is now tentatively set for Dec. 19, the date of the ACC championship game. Miami’s game at Wake Forest that was scheduled for Nov. 28 was moved to Dec. 5, and its game against North Carolina was moved back a week to Dec. 12.
“What we know is we don’t have a coronavirus-in-college-football problem. We have a coronavirus-in-America problem,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said Monday. “And everyone, I hope, can see or I would hope can see — you can’t say everyone can see, because the way things are in 2020 everybody can’t agree on anything — but certainly the math is saying that the numbers are really, really getting to a bad place.”
Georgia Tech, which had its game last week against Pittsburgh postponed because of COVID-19 issues with both teams, joins No. 5 Texas A&M and Arizona State as teams that will now go two weeks without playing.
The number of games across major college football scheduled for this weekend that have already been called off is up to six, after three went down Monday, including Mississippi at Texas A&M.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said the program had only one active case but the number of players available to practice was “in the 40s,” about half of what it would usually be. Most of the absences were due to individuals being quarantined after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus.
The Aggies missed last weekend’s visit to Tennessee.
“We were wondering if we’d even have football. So we can complain about this and this and that but, listen, we’re still getting to play football,” Fisher said. “The season’s going on. So those are great things for us and the SEC and everybody in college football.”
The Southeastern Conference, which has had eight games postponed this season, said the Texas A&M-Ole Miss game could be made up Dec. 19, the day of the league championship game and a week after the Aggies play the make-up against the Volunteers.
The ACC moved up the Wake Forest at Louisville from from Dec. 5 to Nov. 28 and moved Louisville at Boston College back from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12.
The SEC had four games called off last week, including LSU at No. 1 Alabama. Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said he expected most of the players missing last week to be back at practice by Tuesday as LSU prepares for Saturday’s game at Arkansas.
Among the other games put off this week is Arizona State at Colorado in the Pac-12. Like the Aggies, the Sun Devils will not have a game for a second consecutive week. The Pac-12’s abbreviated seven-week schedule, including a championship game on Dec. 18, has no room for make-up dates.
Last week, 15 FBS games were called off because of COVID-19, the most yet this season as the total since late August is now almost 70. The Mid-American Conference announced its first cancellation, Ohio at Miami (Ohio) scheduled for Tuesday night.
While the college football season lurches toward a finish in late December, the NCAA is making plans it hopes will save March Madness in 2021 after having it canceled by the pandemic earlier this year. The NCAA said Monday it wants to move the entire Division I men’s basketball tournament to one geographic location and is in talks with Indianapolis to be the host city.
Major college football conferences have been tweaking policies to provide their schools flexibility to schedule games on short notice.
The Pac-12 signed off on California playing at UCLA on Sunday, less than 48 hours after the Bears and Bruins had their original Saturday opponents postpone. Utah, which has had to postpone its first two games because of COVID-19 cases, is scheduled to host No. 20 Southern California this Saturday.
If the Utes still can’t play, USC and Colorado might be able to play instead. The Trojans and Buffaloes are currently scheduled to meet in Los Angeles on Nov. 28.
“For that to occur, it wouldn’t be a tremendously hard thing for us to shift gears to do,” Colorado coach Karl Dorrell said. “It would be harder if you tried to play someone out of conference, that you don’t have much familiarity with.”
In the Southeastern Conference, presidents approved teams be permitted to re-work schedules as late as Monday night for the following weekend. No rematches are allowed and only games that already exist on the schedule can be moved up. No new matchups can be created, the way the Pac-12 did with Cal-UCLA.
The SEC also decided last week to use Dec. 19 as a make-up date for teams not involved in the conference title game. That probably won’t work for LSU-Alabama because the Crimson Tide and Florida are on track to play for the SEC championship.
LSU already has a make-up game with Florida scheduled for Dec. 12, and the SEC set its television times for Thanksgiving weekend, which includes the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn.
Any juggling of schedules in the SEC to make up postponed games is likely to come after Thanksgiving weekend.
“I believe LSU and Alabama will play, but we don’t know for sure,” Orgeron said.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech was postponed last week because both teams were dealing with COVID-19 issues.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said he expects his team to be ready to play Virginia Tech this weekend, but he also expected the Panthers to be able play last week until Wednesday’s test results came back.
“You don’t know. You don’t know until really Friday at midnight or Saturday morning when you wake up you get your text message that says, hey, everything’s good,” Narduzzi said. “We’ve gotten used to it.”
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham in Denver, Will Graves in Pittsburgh and Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed.
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