Pac-12 opening weekend down to 5 games after Cal's game vs. Washington postponed due to COVID-19

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Cal will not be able to open the Pac-12 football season as scheduled.

The Pac-12 announced Thursday that the Bears requested to cancel Saturday’s game against Washington because the team wouldn’t have enough scholarship players to play due to a COVID-19 positive and subsequent quarantines.

The game has been canceled and will not be made up.

“The Pac-12 has approved a request from Cal to cancel the Washington at Cal football game scheduled for November 7. This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy due to Cal not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game as a result of a positive football student-athlete COVID-19 case and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols. Under conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest. The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 football programs will continue to be our number one priority.”

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The Pac-12 has a rule that requires teams to have a minimum of 53 scholarship players available to play along with positional minimums. The quarantining of an entire position group can force the cancellation of a game.

Cal said the player that had tested positive was currently asymptomatic.

“The health and well-being of our student-athletes is always at the forefront of our decision making,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “We have been diligent in the development and execution of our return-to-play plan, and our goal all along has been to provide a safe environment and to mitigate risk as much as possible. We know how much our team and the greater Cal Athletics community was looking forward to the start of the football season this weekend. While we are disappointed in our inability to play this week, we are confident that we have made the right decision. As we have seen across the country, we knew that there would be COVID-19 challenges, and we will continue to follow our protocols to support the health of our student-athletes.”

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 07: Washington Huskies defensive lineman Benning Potoae (8) lines up for a play during the second quarter of a game between the Washington Huskies and the California Golden Bears on Saturday, September 7, 2019 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cal and Washington won't play on Saturday. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Berkley’s strict coronavirus rules

The city of Berkley, where Cal is located, requires all close contacts of a COVID-19 positive person to quarantine for 14 days. The city defines a close contact as a person who has been “in close contact with a person with or likely to have COVID-19 if they: (a) were within six (6) feet for more than 15 minutes OR (b) had unprotected direct contact to secretions or excretions (e.g., sneeze or cough) of a person diagnosed with or likely to have COVID-19.”

Wilcox said that the team had an entire position group unavailable because of contact tracing guidelines.

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The Pac-12 is doing daily rapid testing of all athletes in an attempt to prevent outbreaks from happening. And it’s a plus for Cal that only one player had tested positive so far. But it appears that the school’s location is playing a big role in the game’s cancellation.

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Pac-12 waited to start season

The Pac-12 is the final conference to start the 2020 football season. After oringinally postponing its season to the spring in August, the conference reversed course and said it would start a seven-game conference-only schedule on the first weekend of November.

The cancellation of the Cal vs. Washington game means that just five games will be played on the conference’s opening weekend.

“It is very disappointing that we will not be opening our 2020 season this Saturday night against Washington,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “My heart goes out first and foremost to all of our players who have been through so much since the pandemic began and worked so hard under difficult circumstances to prepare themselves to play. They have done so well following the protocols that have been put in place, but as we are finding out first-hand, playing football during 2020 is a fragile situation.”

The game is the fifth Week 10 game officially postponed or canceled because of COVID-19. Wisconsin’s game against Purdue and Florida International’s game at UTEP have been canceled, while Louisville’s game against Virginia will be played on Nov. 14 and Navy and Tulsa are working to find a date for a rescheduled game.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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