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Cal-ASU game canceled: Herm Edwards, others positive for COVID-19

Head coach Herm Edwards of the Arizona State Sun Devils watches from the sidelines during the second half of the NCAAF game against the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A single, week-old coronavirus case on the California Golden Bears’ roster put their game against the Arizona State Sun Devils in jeopardy heading into Week 2 of the Pac-12 schedule.

By Friday, it was Herm Edwards and other ASU players and staff members confirming they had caught COVID-19 that led to a cancellation of the matchup in Tempe.

“In the past few days our test results included a number of positive cases, including multiple student-athletes and coaching staff members, one of which is head coach Herm Edwards,” vice president for athletics Ray Anderson said in a statement.

“This put our team below the Pac-12’s minimum threshold of 53 available scholarship student-athletes under the league’s game cancellation policy. After consultation with our medical advisors and Coach Edwards, we immediately began a conversation with the Pac-12 office and California athletics director Jim Knowlton to make them aware of the situation.”

The Cal visit to ASU was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST Saturday and would have aired on ESPN2.’s Chris Karpman reported that ASU’s coronavirus positive count was “well in excess of a dozen” and that the Sun Devils fear they could be sideline beyond this week. ASU is scheduled to play at Colorado on Nov. 21.

“First, I want to say that (wife) Lia, the girls and I are fine and I will be back quicker than you can say ‘Forks Up!'” Edwards said in a statement. “Second, even with the marvelous care our medical professionals have provided for myself, my staff and my team over the past few months the virus still found me.  So, I encourage all of you to take this virus seriously, to wear a mask, practice physical distancing and get tested whenever possible.

“As I’ve stated many times over, the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes is absolutely paramount and we will not put them at risk. Our team has worked extremely hard to get to this point, and even played a game last weekend. We will continue to care for our students-athletes and follow all protocols very thoroughly as we prepare for our next game.  Our team and coaching staff are disappointed, but we do understand what we are dealing with.”

The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner reported that Cal could reroute to play another team this weekend if other Pac-12 games are canceled.

As of Thursday morning, it was the city of Berkeley’s strict coronavirus protocols that appeared to threaten the game in Tempe because the Golden Bears’ entire defensive line was reportedly forced into quarantine.

Contact tracing around one player who tested positive placed the entire position group in quarantine. Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko had maintained to ESPN and Wilner that the city requires all people to take 14 days of quarantine, even though Cal players had continued to test negative for the virus.

On Tuesday night, the city of Berkeley issued a statement to ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura laying out that no further discussions were to be had regarding the quarantined players’ statuses.

“The University was made aware last week of the timeline for when the case will end their isolation period and for when the contacts will end their quarantine,” Chakko said in a statement. “The team should use that information as a timeline for return of those individuals to the field. No further direction is pending from the City.”

According to ESPN, that timeline would not allow those defensive linemen to play until Tuesday, which would follow the city’s required 14 days of quarantine.

The Pac-12 coronavirus game cancellation guidelines set the minimum threshold for defensive lineman at four scholarship players, but Bonagura said teams can opt to still play below that number.

On Thursday afternoon, Bonagura reported there was a “cautious sense of optimism” from Cal’s perspective that the game can take place. Bonagura noted there’s a chance the game could be moved to Sunday.

Then came news of ASU’s own virus issues later Thursday.

California missed its planned 2020 opener against the Washington Huskies in the conference’s opening weekend for that reason.

It remains to be seen if teams could schedule make-up games. The Pac-12 schedule includes six mapped out games and room for a Week 7 game before the conference championship weekend on Dec. 19, but there is now no room for a team like Cal to make up two missed games.

Cal and ASU are not the only programs forced into a cancellation in the first two weeks of the Pac-12 seasons.

The Utah Utes canceled their opener against the Arizona Wildcats last Saturday after multiple players tested positive for coronavirus.

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