LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Saturday's planned USC-Colorado football game has been canceled and the Trojans' game next Friday against Washington State could be in jeopardy because of a lack of scholarship players available at a specific position group.
The Pac-12 Conference has established minimum thresholds to play. A team must have at least 53 scholarship players available, including at least seven offensive linemen, one quarterback and four defensive linemen.
USC announced on Tuesday one player had tested positive. The university announced on Wednesday a second player tested positive for COVID-19 and five others were quarantined after being identified through the contact tracing process.
After being cleared to resume practice Wednesday, USC announced Thursday it would conduct its activities virtually as a precautionary measure because a player was being tested due to symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection.
On Thursday night, the Pac-12 announced cancellation of the game planned for the Coliseum “due to USC not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game at a specific position group as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols.''
Under conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest. The Trojans are 3-0 and Buffaloes 2-0, both overall and in conference play.
“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,'' USC coach Clay Helton said in a statement Thursday night.
“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.''
Helton told reporters Thursday morning “there are starters involved'' among the two players who tested positive and five quarantined, none of whom have been publicly identified because of privacy laws.
Players who test positive for the virus are placed in a 10-day quarantine and those placed in protocol through contact tracing are sidelined for 14 days., threatening the Washington State at USC game.
The cancellation was the third of the week in the Pac-12.
The conference announced on Sunday the cancellation of Friday's planned Washington at Washington State game due to the Cougars not having the minimum number of scholarship players available.
Sunday's planned Utah at Arizona State game was canceled Tuesday because Arizona State did not have the minimum number of scholarship players available. The conference announced later Tuesday Utah would play at Washington Saturday.
Shortly after the cancellation of the USC-Colorado game, Colorado announced it would play host to San Diego State Saturday in Boulder, Colorado. The Aztecs' previously scheduled game Friday at Fresno State was canceled earlier this week due to COVID-19 contact tracing within the Bulldogs' program.
The game will be the season's first nonconference game for a Pac-12 team.
The Pac-12 announced Nov. 19 that its CEO Group approved non-conference games, reversing a previous decision. The conference set the following criteria for a non-conference football opponent to be scheduled by a Pac-12 football team:
-- All Pac-12 testing and related protocols must be adhered to by the non-conference opponent;
-- the non-conference game will in all cases be a home game for the Pac-12 team, broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner; and
-- if a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by the end of day Thursday in any given week, the conference game must be played in lieu of any non-conference game.
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