Coronavirus: UCLA’s home opener against Utah called off

UCLA’s home opener against Utah scheduled for Saturday at the Rose Bowl was called off Friday after another positive COVID-19 test involving the Utes, giving the Pac-12 Conference as many games canceled as played in the season’s early going.

It was the first cancellation of a game involving the Bruins and the second in as many weeks for the Utes, whose roster has been ravaged by the novel coronavirus. The Pac-12 declared the game between UCLA and Utah a no-contest and said in a statement that the Utes did not have the minimum number of players available as a result of positive tests and resulting isolation of other players per contact tracing protocols.

“We have been on the edge all week, and with a positive test today, we can’t move forward,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said in a tweet. “Devastated for our team, our fans and this whole state.”

It was not immediately clear whether UCLA would be able to stage a makeup game this weekend. The Bruins are next scheduled to play at Oregon on Nov. 20.

The Pac-12 now has canceled four games, matching the number it has played and illuminating the challenges of starting a season as viral case counts soar across the country.

Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said on Monday that his team barely satisfied the minimum threshold of 53 scholarship players available, adding that scout-teamers were moving up to the first team and walk-ons were preparing to play. The game against UCLA, originally scheduled for Friday, was pushed back one day to bolster its chances of taking place.

Utah left guard Nick Ford tweeted Friday that Los Angeles County officials were not allowing him to play after being exposed to COVID-19 even though he had received “20-plus negative tests” over eight days. A City of Pasadena spokesperson said the city’s protocols required a 14-day quarantine for anyone who had been a close contact of someone who tested positive.

“Disappointment and frustration are both understatements for the way I feel,” Ford wrote. “When it’s finally my time to step back on the field … feel bad for whoever I’m going against.”

UCLA (0-1) made it through its opener after one player tested positive in the week before the game. The Bruins were spared the fate of other teams who have had to cancel games because they did not have to quarantine a wide swath of players, though the player who tested positive remained out this weekend, coach Chip Kelly said.

The challenge of playing in a pandemic was further demonstrated earlier Friday when California learned that it would have a game called off for a second consecutive week despite only one positive test on its roster. The Golden Bears’ opener had been wiped out by strict contact tracing protocols ordered by local health officials and its game Saturday against Arizona State declared a no-contest because of positives involving the Sun Devils, including coach Herm Edwards.

Conference officials acknowledged that a testing error had led to multiple Stanford players being held out of a game against Oregon last weekend even though subsequent testing showed that the one player suspected to have the virus was actually negative.

“We apologize to the Stanford football team and its supporters, and especially to the student-athletes who were held out of the game as a result of the testing protocol errors,” the Pac-12 said in a statement that served as little consolation after the Cardinal’s 35-14 loss to the Ducks. “We are working with our game day testing partner to ensure this type of error does not occur in the future.”

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