Utah AD Mark Harlan, Football Program Will Continue To ‘Push Forward’ After UCLA Cancellation

Nov 13, 2020, 4:46 PM
Silas Walker, Deseret News...
(Photo courtesy of Silas Walker, Deseret News)
(Photo courtesy of Silas Walker, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Despite having their first two football games of the 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said the program will continue to push forward.

Utah’s game on Saturday against UCLA was canceled on Friday afternoon after the Utes didn’t have enough scholarship players available to participate in the game. Entering the week, Utah was just above the amount of players that could play. After getting zero positive tests on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Utes received one positive test on their travel squad on Friday, which forced them to cancel the game.

Harlan met with the media on Friday afternoon to discuss the second straight game being canceled for Utah football. He was asked if the possibility of shutting the season down is an option.

“There’s nothing I can pinpoint at this point for a line in the sand,” Harlan stated. I mean, obviously, we’re still recovering from the blow here and we’ll have to take a look at it. I mean, I’m concerned about the guys and their spirits. We can talk all we want about, you know, whether you’re still in the race or all the rules and all that other stuff, but what about them? What about their desire to keep pushing forward, when you’ve had two straight weeks, and you’re feeling like you can make it and then on Friday, you don’t. We’ll still have to assess the hurt and pain and how we all pick ourselves up off the floor. But these young men who’ve done all these things. So I just want to mention that first.”

Still A Lot To Play For

Utah now has five games remaining on their schedule after the UCLA game was declared a no contest by the Pac-12. They could play six games if they can qualify for a bowl game.

“I still think there’s a lot to play for, there’s an SC (USC) team coming in next week that we’re going to do everything we can to to turn this thing around, and we got games after that,” Harlan mentioned. “We don’t know how many games are going to be played in our conference. We’re all rooting for everybody to play every week, believe me. So I still believe as I sit here today, there’s a lot to play for. We’ve got to get this virus out of our program to be able to participate.”

Kyle Whittingham’s team will not practice this weekend as they will continue to test the players, both PCR and antigen tests, before deciding when to open up the facility again.

COVID-19 Likely From Community Spread, Not Through Facility

Part of the announcement that came on Friday from Harlan and the athletic department was that they had 17 positive COVID-19 cases and 11 members of the team (players/staff) that are in quarantine for contact tracing.

“The medical advisors and the contact tracing people are fairly confident that they have yet to find an example if it’s spreading within our team, practice or facility,” said Harlan. “A lot of that has to do with our measures, the way we meet, you know, everything’s changed. Whitt (Kyle Whittingham) and the medical group have changed everything the way we do, and we film practice, and we can see their interactions. So we feel very confident that it’s not happening there. But, when you go through this, you have to triple check all of that, of course, we’ve been doing that, we’ll continue to do that. But quite candidly, I think some of these are leading towards just them being part of the community.”

Harlan also mentioned that most of the players live alone which has helped them limit the positive cases to this point before the outbreak last week.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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Utah AD Mark Harlan, Football Program Will Continue To ‘Push Forward’ After UCLA Cancellation