The COVID-19 outbreak within the University of Utah football program is bad, if not worse than most foreigners have assumed.
Following a rash of infections, along with subsequent contact tracing protocols, the Utes’ season opener against Arizona was called off and declared uncontested. The sports department announced on Sunday that the soccer team had had “two consecutive days without positive COVID-19 test results.” Practice was scheduled to resume Monday afternoon and Friday night’s game at UCLA was moved to Saturday night (8:30 p.m., FOX).
Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham spoke to the media via Zoom on Monday, when he gave some details on the seriousness of what is going on inside the Eccles football center.
At the top of the list, Whittingham indicated that at one point a player was hospitalized.
“We have had players who have gotten really sick, almost in hospital,” Whittingham said. “It’s there, and like you said, I’m not a medical expert. I don’t want to try to explain something that I don’t know much about other than what touched us. We had a player who struggled.
Seeking to clarify what Whittingham said, a spokesperson for the Utah Sports Department later made a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune, as it turns out that yes, the Utes did admit a player to the hospital.
“A student-athlete who has not participated in the football program since August recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized,” the statement said. “He has since been released from the hospital. He is at home and is doing much better. During this time, he received comprehensive care from the medical team.
Utah-Arizona was called off, in part, because the Utes failed to meet the Pac 12 stock market threshold of 53 to play a game. In this 53, a team must have a quarterback, four defensive linemen and seven offensive linemen. Positive tests have spread across the list, said Whittingham, who then proposed that particular job groups “were wiped out, more than any other.”
Whittingham did not say which groups of positions were hit the hardest.
Utah may not have had positive tests on Saturday and Sunday, but an unprecedented number of positive cases remain and other players are still in quarantine for coming into close contact with a teammate carrying the virus. Still, the Utes are pushing for an attempt to start what has become a five-game regular season Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
Just getting on the plane to Los Angeles could be a daunting task. Whittingham said Utah was barely on the positive side of the 53-player threshold. The reasonable guess is that another round of positive tests this week would make it impossible to play at UCLA.
What the roster might look like on Saturday is also a guess, but members of the scout team are now getting two in-depth reps in practice, while walk-ons are also getting reps in preparation to potentially play.
“Some of these guys haven’t really taken a rehearsal since we started camp, since we split up into scout teams, which was after the first week of camp,” Whittingham said. “We have a bunch of guys we’re going to be counting on now to help us win so that’s where we are.
“We are doing our best to be able to play the game.”
Utah-USC ready to kick off at 8:30 p.m., ESPN broadcast
The Pac-12 announced the kick-off times and TV designations for its November Monday morning. 20-21 games, with Utah’s home game Nov. 21 against USC scheduled to kick off at 8:30 p.m. and broadcast ESPN.
With Utah having five regular season games scheduled, kick-off times for three of them are now known, and all three are night starts. In addition to the 8:30 a.m. kickoffs against UCLA and USC, the Utes will play Colorado on December 11 at 7:30 p.m. Games at Arizona State on November 28 and against Oregon State on December 5 will have hours of play. kick off and televised designations in the coming weeks.