The 2020 college football season has already experienced plenty of setbacks created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest came this week, hitting the Rice Owls for the second time this fall.
Nearly a month after Rice University delayed the start of its 2020 college football season to help school administrators better prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Owls are expected to postpone their upcoming games once again.
Rice Owls to postpone football season for second time due to COVID-19?
On Sunday, Rice announced the postponement of football practices just four weeks before their 2020 opener. The decision came due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with conditions in Houston making it more difficult for the university to obtain reliable and rapid testing for the coronavirus.
Without the ability to test its student-athletes regularly, the Owls couldn’t run the risk of one player or coaching testing positive for the virus and spreading it to teammates. At a time when the University of Alabama is reporting more than 800 new cases of COVID-19 among their student population and the Oklahoma Sooners just had a small outbreak, the risks were too high for Rice.
Unfortunately, per Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, the decision is likely to be followed by another difficult choice. Rice is expected to postpone its upcoming football games against the Marshall Thundering Herd on Oct. 3 and against the UAB Blazers on Oct. 10.
The Owls, a member of Conference USA, planned to kick off their football season immediately in October after allowing the team to practice throughout September. School officials won’t even be able to consider starting practice until much later this month, creating an indefinite delay for football fans in Texas.
Unfortunately, the hopes of Rice even taking the field for a game this season are diminishing. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to worsen in the fall when flu season hits, which would put more games in jeopardy. While the university wants to see its student-athletes return to play this season, it’s clear that is far from certain.
“Our top priority is the safety of our community,” Rice’s athletic director Joe Karlgaard said, via statement. “Rice has safely welcomed back a majority of its student body and will continue to prioritize an on-campus college experience. The very low rates of infection among our campus community are the result of a communal effort and one that requires continued vigilance and dedication. At the same time, we will continue to explore options to allow a football season to happen in 2020.”
As Rice experiences a major setback for its season, Power 5 conferences continue to evaluate their standing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pac-12 is developing rapid testing, which would go a long way in the conference’s hopes for its football season to return in a few months.
Likewise, there is renewed hope within the Big Ten that college football will return to the conference this year. However, the controversial decision to suspend football this fall remains in place and the best-case scenario for a return might be in November.
Fortunately, we will see conferences like the Big 12 and ACC return to the field this weekend. As we’ve come to learn from this pandemic, though, things can change quickly.