Oklahoma briefly lost almost entire position group to COVID-19 during preseason practice

Sam Cooper
·4 min read

Oklahoma lived out one of the nightmare scenarios of trying to play a season amid a pandemic.

Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley told reporters Tuesday that last week during preseason practice his team had nearly an entire position group wiped out by COVID-19. Riley did not specify if it was one player testing positive and others being forced to sit out due to contact tracing or if it was multiple cases among one position group.

Riley did, though, highlight one of the very real scenarios that could play out for a program this coming season. Imagine if that happened to a team’s offensive line room during the regular season. From a purely football standpoint, it would be a tremendous hurdle to overcome. It’s also an example of why coaching staffs (of programs that have not had their seasons already postponed) have been forced to be exceedingly careful in the lead-up to the season.

Oklahoma was originally scheduled to open its season this coming weekend, so it was one of the first FBS programs to open preseason camp. Things have changed, with the Big 12 instituting a 10-game scheduling format (nine conference games, one non-conference), giving OU a little more time to prepare for the season.

Oklahoma’s football program has also had to acclimate to the general student body’s return to campus. Riley told reporters Aug. 15 that nine players on the team had tested positive for COVID-19 after the team took a few days off practice. Riley said most of the team stayed in Norman and classified the cases as “community-based infections.”

Oklahoma’s most-recent testing figures (from Aug. 17-21) revealed 17 active cases among football players. That data was released Monday. Riley said Tuesday that “eight or nine” of players who were in quarantine returned to practice. He said his team is now “definitely” under 10 active cases.

Oklahoma opens its season against Missouri State in Norman on Sept. 12. OU’s conference schedule begins Sept. 26 against Kansas State, also at home.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 07: Oklahoma Head Coach Lincoln Riley on the sidelines during the game Big 12 Championship Game between the Baylor Bears and the Oklahoma Sooners on December 07, 2019, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley revealed that nearly an entire position group was off the practice field at one point due to COVID-19. (Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Texas Tech has 21 active cases

Oklahoma is not the only Big 12 program dealing with cases of COVID-19. Texas Tech currently has 21 active cases within its football program, the school said Tuesday.

The Red Raiders, who have not halted preseason practices, are testing every member of the football program on a weekly basis, but will soon increase to three times per week to meet the Big 12’s requirements for high-risk sports.

The school said that athletes who test positive are immediately put into isolation and receive daily care from its sports medicine staff in consultation with the City of Lubbock’s health department.

The TTU athletic department announced the figures Tuesday while providing details on its testing outcomes since Red Raiders athletes across multiple sports began returning to campus in June. In all, TTU has completed 1,382 tests for athletes, coaches and staff with 64 coming back positive, a positivity rate of 4.6. Currently, the athletic department has 24 active cases with 21 coming from the football program. The school did not specify how many are football players.

“Per local and state regulations, all positive tests have been reported to the City of Lubbock Health Department and contact tracing has been implemented. Texas Tech’s sports medicine staff continues to monitor the health and well-being of all its student-athletes through daily assessment of symptoms and temperature checks upon entry to all athletic facilities,” the university said in a press release.

Texas Tech is scheduled to open its season against Houston Baptist at home on Sept. 12. The Red Raiders are slated begin Big 12 play two weeks later at home against Texas on Sept. 26.

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