COVID-19 hits pause button on USC and Colorado

As the USC looked to extend its winning streak, the next competition against the Colorado Buffalos was canceled due to the Trojans not being able to field enough scholarship players. After the win in Utah, players from the Trojans football program contracted the COVID-19 sickness.

The cancelation of the game was made under the Pac-12 Conference policy of having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game at a specific position group. The game will now be called a no contest. 

“Not contesting this game is very disappointing to our student-athletes and our fans.  While all of us want to see our football student-athletes on the field competing, our number one priority must continue to be the health and safety of all those connected to Pac-12 football programs,” the PAC-12 said in an announcement. 

USC (3-0) is currently ranked No. 18 in the College Football Playoffs. The game against Colorado (2-0)  was supposed to be a battle for first place in the Pac-12 Conference South Division conference.

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USC running back Markese Stepp (30) rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Arizona State on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils, 28-27, at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium.

Southern California was fully aware one of their players was sick on the travel back and took the regulated precautions with the student. USC canceled in-person activities on Thursday and was preparing virtually for Colorado. 

It all started when two players tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week and another five were in isolation for contact tracing. USC canceled practice and closed its facility on Tuesday but returned to in-person practice on Wednesday. They then completed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and contact tracing which was done under the guidance of Los Angeles County health officials.

 USC head coach Clay Helton had high hopes that the game would still happen as he mentioned in one of his weekly media press conferences.

“You’re always fearful and still fearful today,” Helton said. “We don’t have a crystal ball for this thing. You really don’t. And, you know, you kind of hold your breath with each, I mean it’s been this way since July 6th. Honestly, you hold your breath with the results of the testing on each day. And hopefully get to that point, especially as it gets right to the end of the week, because by the time you hit Friday and Saturday, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, please don’t have one.’ And we’ve been fortunate through the first three games.”

Sadly, the Trojans’ optimism did not last, as on the same day he made this statement in regards to the cancelation.

USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) sets his eyes on a receiver against Arizona State on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Slovis and the Trojans defeated the Sun Devils, 28-27, at United Airlines Stadium at the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium. Photo credit: USC Athletics

“We are disappointed for our players and fans and those from Colorado that Saturday’s game will not be played, but the health and safety of everyone in both programs is of the utmost priority. Helton said. “Our players have worked hard since the summer not only to prepare for this season, but to do so in a safe manner by following all health protocols. I applaud their discipline and sacrifice in doing so. We will continue to test and monitor our players, coaches and staff and take guidance from health officials as we prepare for our remaining games.”

If the Trojans are eligible to play their next game, they will face Washington State at the Coliseum on Friday, Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. 

USC and UCLA are the only teams in the Pac-12 South Division that played all of their first three scheduled games. Oregon and Oregon State also haven’t missed a game in the Pac-12 North.

As a substitute, Colorado will now face the San Diego State Aztecs at home to make-up for the game.

COVID-19 has infiltrated throughout the collegiate football ranks and slowly making its way around the college football landscape. Once a player or coach shows signs of the coronavirus, it is all hands on deck. 

Another game was canceled this week with the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State. The reason given was due to not enough scholarship players available. Eight Pac-12 games were canceled this season so far. The conference saw at least two games canceled in each of the first three weeks.

Earlier this season, games between UCLA vs Utah and Cal vs Arizona State were canceled the same week. To coincide with the situation, the Pac-12 rescheduled the games by having Cal travel to UCLA to have a new match.

Around college football, the same has occurred multiple times. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has announced a revised schedule for football games to be played on Dec. 5 as a result of game postponements during the season due to the impact of COVID-19.

One notable coach from the SEC has gotten the coronavirus twice already. Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban, 68, tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss the Iron Bowl against Auburn.

The Pac-12 has not announced any new changes to their schedule as they take care of each game week by week.

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