Shortly after arriving at Washington State, Cougars coach Nick Rolovich installed an Apple Cup countdown clock in his home locker room.
That clock might not hit zero until 2021.
On Thursday, less than 24 hours after The Spokesman-Review reported that true freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura had tested positive for COVID-19, Washington State’s road game at Stanford on Saturday was canceled due to the Cougars’ inability to reach the 53-player scholarship requirement.
WSU athletics director Pat Chun told local media on Friday afternoon that nine Cougar players are 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 last Saturday.
Chun did not say 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 Cougars will have a better sense Sunday of whether they can host Washington in the Apple Cup on Friday, Chun said.
“It’s hard to speculate right now,” he told the Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson, when asked whether the Apple Cup could potentially be moved to Saturday or Sunday to allow the Cougars more time to recover. “Right now, we’ll begin that process on Sunday to see where we are with our roster.”
The Pac-12 requires each program to have 53 scholarship players available — including one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen — to meet its minimum threshold. 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. Under those restrictions, none of the players placed in COVID-19 protocol would be available for the Apple Cup.
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 Huskies and Cougars met twice in 1945, with each team claiming a victory (UW 6-0, WSU 7-0).
“At this time we are focused on playing Arizona and will await further information from the Pac-12 on future games,” a UW spokesperson said Friday evening, when asked about the status of next week’s Apple Cup.
Of course, if the Apple Cup is indeed canceled, it’s possible the Huskies could schedule an impromptu opponent on short notice instead. Last weekend, Cal and UCLA met at the Rose Bowl on Sunday morning after their initial opponents — Arizona State and Utah, respectively — were forced to cancel due to COVID-19 concerns.
This week, the Pac-12 also voted to allow member programs to schedule non-conference makeup games if no other conference opponents are available to play. The prospective match up 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
Prior to de Laura’s positive test, Washington State had reported just one COVID-19 case within its football team and five in the athletic department since the beginning of daily rapid-results testing in October — with more than 5,000 antigen tests being administered to football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players over that span. The Cougars’ men’s basketball coach, Kyle Smith, also tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
UW has won seven consecutive Apple Cups and leads the all-time series, 74-32-6.
At this point, all Rolovich and UW coach Jimmy Lake can do is hope the game goes on as scheduled — that the countdown clock remains correct.