At Cal, a single positive test can erase two football games

For months, the athletic department at Cal thought it was doing everything right to keep the coronovirus out and get the game over again. The football team’s season opener on Saturday was supposed to be the university’s first athletic competition since March. Like hundreds of other colleges, Cal was determined to do so safely.

“We designed what we did,” said Athletic Director Jim Noelton. “And we are probably the strictest people of any school around.”

Then there was a positive test for a player on Monday, a follow-up positive test on Tuesday, and a public announcement of the diagnosis on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the game was on schedule.

Behind the curtain, university health officials met with Berkeley health officials, whose rules determine college procedures after testing positive. Contact tracing was going on; The anonymous player who tested positive was asked about all his contacts in the last five days. An entire status group was kept from practice, although no one else tested positive.

Naughton warned the university’s chancellor and the Pac-12 Conference commissioner that there were concerns about Saturday’s home game with Washington.

Big news on Thursday: The game was canceled. It was erased by a single positive test.

Athletic director Jay Larson, a senior associate who oversees the football program, quoted a decision as saying, “When we canceled the season, it was worse than when the Pac-12 was canceled in July. “Just to come this close, two days are able to do what these people dream of doing.”

More than anything, the moratorium was reminiscent of the fluidity and fragility of playing college sports during an epidemic.

On Saturday, the Pac-12 will become the last major college conference to begin its football season. It was criticized for moving slower, as some other top conferences have been underway since September. The Pac-12, it argued, resulted in a better position to keep players safe.

But two of its six matches Saturday – Cal in Utah and Washington in Arizona – were canceled this weekend as the players tested positive.

No one seems to have a better handle for limiting the spread of the virus. College football, dozens of games have been postponed or canceled due to the outbreak.

Top coaches and players have had to sit out of the game. Alabama coach Nick Saban Almost missed a game After a positive test, and top-order Clemson quarterback, Trevor Lawrence – a key candidate to win the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player – No. 4 will miss Saturday’s game against Notre Dame. The cancellation of Pac-12 on Saturday is between at least seven.

Conferences everywhere are trying to build order from battered schedules and fried standings, while insisting that playing college football is a wise and necessary endeavor that has nothing to do with making money.

In the United States, an increase in the number of coronovirus cases and deaths was again attempted to accelerate Pac-12.

This fall, The Times has highlighted the challenge facing college sports through the experience of a major athletic department – the premier campus of the University of California, California – system, with 30 games and a $ 100 million annual budget.

Like the rest of the Pac-12, Cal initially said it would wait until 2021 to play the game, postponing all of its fall games. In October, troubled by the availability of daily testing and a growing sense of peer pressure to join the party, the Pac-12 decided To start football after all.

The league produced a conference-only, seven-game season and scheduled it to begin this weekend. There will be no time for the sub-week, as the Pac-12 wanted its champion to be eligible for the four-team national championship playoffs, which begin January 1.

Cal, coming from an 8-5 season, hopes for a league title behind veteran quarterback Chase Garbers. The practice started last month. Cal tested the athletes before each workout, required masks at all times, the athletes dress and lift weights outside and Promoted the importance of virus prevention.

Then came sports week.

Prior to each practice, each Cal player has to undergo a swab test. Results are returned in 15 minutes. On Monday, Larsen received a call: A player had tested positive.

False positives are not uncommon, so there was little alarm. But the player, who was still asymptomatic, was excluded from practice and immediately underwent a genetic test, as all Cal players do twice a week. Those tests are considered more accurate, but results can take one or more days.

There was no practice on Tuesday due to Election Day. During a regularly scheduled Tuesday morning meeting involving administrators and the head coach of the football team, Justin Wilcox, the group discussed Pac-12 rules that led to controversy over multiple players being approached about segregation . The conference requires a minimum of 53 scholarship players for a football game, and a minimum number for three positions: quarterback, offensive line, and defensive line. (CAL officials declined to name the status of the infected player.)

On Tuesday afternoon, positive tests were confirmed. University health officials contacted Berkeley health officials, who began contact tracing. The player was questioned about his contacts in the last five days. Cal also drew the film from previous practices to study, in which players had increased contact with him.

Berkeley rules state that close contacts with someone with a coronavirus must quarantine for 14 days.

“As of Tuesday night, we had a very good sense that the entire situation group could be affected,” Larsen said.

Naughton sent a message warning the Chancellor. On Wednesday morning, Berkeley health officials approved a plan for the football team to practice on Wednesday, leaving none of the players in an affected position, saying they would have the results of their contact until 11 a.m. on Thursday.

Noelton called the Pac-12 and Washington, and Cal announced on Wednesday evening that a player had tested positive. Coach Wilcox admitted Saturday’s game was in jeopardy.

At around 10 a.m. on Thursday, Berkeley officials received the word Cal: the whole situation would have to be quarantined. Cal’s November 14 game at Arizona State could also be at risk, depending on the contacts. University expectations continue to have negative results may allow it to proceed as scheduled.

Saturday’s game with Washington was declared “no contest” by the Pac-12.

Wilcox expressed disappointment that a positive test could lead to the cancellation of one or more games after he noticed that teams in other parts of the country continued to play. “I completely agree that there are different interpretations of contact tracing,” he told reporters in a conversation on Thursday afternoon.

But Naughton knew all too quickly how best plans could be undone. Now he and Larsen want to know how to prevent it from happening again. More university games are scheduled to begin in the coming weeks.

On Friday, Naughton and Larsen held a meeting to find out what went wrong. As of Friday night, he was still not sure.

“We are not averse to withdrawing our test,” said Naughton. “But we are a learning organization. Tell us which questions we got wrong, because we are going back and studying those areas so that we get a. “

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