USC football’s game against Colorado Saturday will not be played, the Pac-12 conference announced in a statement Thursday. The decision was made because COVID-19 cases prevented USC from fielding the minimum number of scholarship players at a certain position group. The position group affected is unknown.
The game will be ruled a no contest. Colorado will host San Diego State on Saturday at 2 p.m. following the conference’s approval last week of scheduling non-conference games in the case of cancellations.
USC head coach Clay Helton supported the decision in a statement of his own.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Two USC players tested positive earlier this week and were isolated, while five others were quarantined through the contact tracing process. Those were the first positive tests among the team during the regular season.
The team met virtually on Tuesday, the day the initial positive tests were announced. After consulting with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and USC Student Health, the team was cleared to practice Wednesday. The team returned to virtual preparation Thursday as a “precautionary measure” while another player was tested for showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“Not contesting this game is very disappointing to our student-athletes and our fans,” the conference’s statement read. “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.”
That wording has become all too familiar for Pac-12 fans; it runs at the end of each cancellation statement, and the conference has now had to cancel or adjust nine originally scheduled conference games. The Utah-Arizona State and Washington-Washington State matchups slated for this week were already canceled, leading to an adjustment to allow Utah to play at Washington.
Until this week, USC was one of three Pac-12 teams, along with Oregon and Oregon State, that had played each of the three weeks. The conference will now have multiple canceled games in each of the first four weeks of the season.
The conditions that have caused the strangest college football season in recent memory have affected USC in a major way for the first time since it began fall camp. It’s been a different experience for the team, and that experience will only become more difficult with this development; however, Helton expressed his confidence in his players’ ability to handle the issue.
“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,” he wrote. “I applaud their discipline and sacrifice in doing so.”