The Apple Cup is canceled.
Two days after Washington State announced it could not meet the 53-player scholarship threshold to participate in Saturday’s game at Stanford, next Friday’s rivalry game against Washington has also been called off.
“This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football policy due to Washington State not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game 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,” a Pac-12 statement read. “Under Conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest.”
It’s possible the game could be made up on Dec. 19, but that would require Washington not to qualify for the Pac-12 Championship game the day before. The sides could also meet if further cancellations create a simultaneous opening in their schedules.
“This is so disappointing for our players, coaches and staff, as well as Husky Nation as we were all looking forward to the Boeing Apple Cup this week,” UW athletics director Jen Cohen said in a statement. “This is one of the best rivalries in college sports and every year we circle this game at the start of the season. We will work with [the] Pac-12 to prioritize this game and look into any opportunities to play it should there be an open date for both schools down the road.
“We also understand that the Pac-12, in conjunction with local and state officials, developed policies that placed the health and safety of students, coaches and staff as the top priority. We want to provide an opportunity for our football program to compete this weekend and are working to find another opponent.”
WSU athletics director Pat Chun told local media Friday that nine Cougar players are currently in the program’s COVID-19 protocol — which could indicate a positive case or contact tracing. He added that four players were placed in the protocol following Friday morning’s testing and zero players were in the protocol when Washington State met Oregon eight days ago.
One WSU player who tested positive last week, according to The Spokesman-Review, was true freshman starting quarterback Jayden de Laura. The 6-0, 195-pounder from Honolulu threw for 548 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in his first two collegiate starts.
Chun did not disclose last week how many of WSU’s players in COVID-19 protocol had tested positive and how many were there via contact tracing, per school policy.
The Pac-12 requires each program to have 53 scholarship players available — including one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen. Of course, the UW already had its season opener at California canceled when the Bears could not reach the minimum threshold due to one positive COVID-19 case and subsequent contact tracing.
The Spokesman-Review also reported that WSU’s guidelines for COVID-19 include a 10-day isolation period for anyone who tests positive and a 14-day quarantine for potential contacts of positive cases. Based on that timetable, all nine Cougars currently in the COVID-19 protocol should be available for their next game at USC on Dec. 4.
Though WSU was able to play each of its first two games, Rolovich told reporters following a season-opening road win over Oregon State that 32 players were unavailable for unspecified reasons.
The Apple Cup has been played every year since 1944, when Washington State did not field a team because of World War II. The UW has won seven consecutive Apple Cups and leads the all-time series, 74-32-6.
“The Boeing Apple Cup is one of the most sacred rivalries in all of sports and one of the most meaningful days of the year for all Washingtonians,” WSU athletics director Pat Chun said in a statement. “It’s gut-wrenching and disappointing for our student-athletes and coaches as well as those at UW.
“As we work through the remainder of our schedule, we will continue to communicate with the Pac-12 Conference and UW if any scenario would emerge that would allow us to reschedule the game at a later point in the season.”
The Huskies, as Cohen stated, will now attempt to schedule a makeup game on short notice. That could come against Pac-12 opponent Utah, whose game at Arizona State next Sunday remains in jeopardy because of the Sun Devils’ COVID-19 issues.
According to a source, the UW also reached out to No. 8 BYU, a 9-0 independent that doesn’t have another game scheduled until Dec. 12. But The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported Sunday evening that the Cougars turned the game down after stating they’d prefer to wait for Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings release to gauge their position.
But there have also been conflicting reports on that front. Yahoo’s Pete Thamel tweeted, citing a source, that BYU is interested in playing — but only if a contract can be locked in immediately. The Pac-12’s policy states that, if another conference opponent is available by Thursday, that’s who the Huskies have to play (even if they’ve already scheduled a non-conference opponent).
Of course, a loss to the UW would have punctured BYU’s bid for a playoff spot or a New Year’s Six bowl. The UW just wrapped up a home-and-home series with the (other) Cougars, winning both games by a combined score of 80-26.
Several other programs, such as Army and San Diego State, also have openings next weekend and could serve as impromptu opponents. But there are obstacles as well. For any nonconference game to take place, the Pac-12 stated it must meet the following criteria:
- All Pac-12 testing and related protocols are adhered to by the nonconference opponent
- The nonconference game is a home game for the Pac-12 team, and broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner
- If a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by Thursday in that given week, the conference game is played in lieu of any nonconference game
At 2-0, and one spot out of The Associated Press top-25 rankings, the UW is desperate not to waste another weekend.
And logistically, UW head coach Jimmy Lake said last week he’d prefer a makeup game be scheduled by Wednesday for a Saturday kick.
“For me, I would definitely want [the opponent] to be a Pac-12 opponent first if there was a cancellation for our game and another Pac-12 cancellation,” Lake said.
“But let’s say this week, if for whatever reason our game is not happening and everybody else in the Pac-12 is booked up, then I think it’s good. We’ve practiced and prepared so much that we want to be able to play a game and get that game in the books. It will be difficult to try to travel or try to get a team here, but we’ll work through those issues. And at the end of the day, let’s let these young men get out there and play.”
They won’t be playing in Pullman.
At least, not this week.