North Texas vs. Houston game canceled due to UNT's COVID-19 issues, 4th season opener lost for UH

Sam Cooper
·5 min read

Houston just cannot catch a break.

UH’s home game against North Texas scheduled for this Saturday has been canceled due to COVID-19 cases and “subsequent contact tracing” among the UNT football team. North Texas said it received four positive tests this week and the contact tracing that followed left the Mean Green “unable to field a team for a game this week.”

"We knew that there would be challenges with COVID-19 this season and we were taking precautions to hopefully avoid this situation," UNT athletic director Wren Baker said. "Our student-athlete health and safety is the priority in every decision we make and that is what this difficult decision is based on. We are hopeful we can resume safe activities soon."

While the two universities will work to find a date to reschedule the game, it’s another dose of bad news for Houston, which has yet to play a game this season. The Cougars have now lost five games, including four season-openers, from their schedule: Washington State, Rice, Memphis, Baylor and now North Texas.

The WSU game was scheduled for Sept. 12 before the Pac-12 decided to postpone its season. Rice delayed the start of its football practices until late September, citing the COVID-19 infection rate in the city of Houston the “need for highly reliable and very rapid testing results.”

Later, UH’s game against Memphis was postponed because of COVID-19 cases on the Memphis team. That postponement resulted in UH quickly scheduling a game at Baylor, which also lost an opponent, Louisiana Tech, due to the virus. However, the UH-Baylor game, scheduled for last Saturday, was canceled on Friday, a day before the game, because of COVID-19 issues among the Baylor team. Now, because of similar issues at North Texas, Houston is once again left without an opponent.

"We understand this COVID-related decision North Texas has made to not play Saturday's game and appreciate the consistent dialogue with our program by UNT Athletics Director Wren Baker, his administration and medical staff during this week," UH athletic director Chris Pezman said.

After Saturday, Houston will be just one of two (joining Temple, which pushed back the start of its season due to COVID-19 protocols in the city of Philadelphia) American Athletic Conference members not to have taken the field this season. The other AAC team that has not played in 2020, East Carolina, is scheduled to play its first game on Saturday when it hosts No. 13 UCF.

The next game on Houston’s schedule is Oct. 8 against Tulane. Pezman said the athletic department will try to get the Cougars on the field as soon as possible.

"I am disappointed for our student-athletes who have continued to focus on competing this season and were ready to play this Saturday,” Pezman said. “We will continue to work to adjust our schedule with the hopes of playing as soon as we can."

Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen during the second half of an NCAA college football game against SMU Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen during the second half of an NCAA college football game against SMU Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Tulsa vs. Arkansas State also postponed

Shortly after the North Texas-Houston news came down, Arkansas State announced that its home game against Tulsa scheduled for this Saturday has been postponed. It’s the second straight week Arkansas State has called off a game. The Red Wolves’ game against Central Arkansas was also postponed.

Arkansas State said it is “unable to assemble a two-deep depth chart at one position group that would allow the game to be played safely.”

“The football team will continue its practice schedule this week since it wasn’t the volume of total players unavailable, but rather the inability to field a safe number of players among the depleted position group that required the game be rescheduled,” the school said.

Arkansas State said it is working with Tulsa officials to reschedule the game. Arkansas State’s next scheduled game is its Sun Belt opener against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 3.

“We are postponing our game against Tulsa because the amount of unavailable players at one specific position group doesn’t allow for us to safely play the game,” Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir said. “This is a result of a combination of positive tests on Monday and other players still displaying symptoms, as well as having time to safely reacclimate prior to the game. This decision is based on the ability to safely field a two-deep at the position group rather than the total number of players unavailable. We are taking all precautions as our student health and safety remains our first and foremost priority.”

South Florida vs. Florida Atlantic added to list

A third game scheduled for Saturday, South Florida vs. Florida Atlantic, has been called off.

There have now been 21 FBS games canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 issues thus far in the 2020 college football season. Four of them have been postponed this week. The Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest game, postponed Tuesday, has already been rescheduled for Dec. 12.

USF played Notre Dame last weekend. USF athletic director Michael Kelly alluded to the Notre Dame game in his statement regarding the postponement.

“Given the outbreak among team members of our most recent opponent and subsequent contact tracing within our team, postponement of this Saturday’s game at FAU is the right thing to do,” Kelly said.

His full statement is below.

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