Memphis played one of the first games of the 2020 college football season in Week 1 with a 37-24 win over Arkansas State. The Tigers’ next game, against Houston on Sept. 18, appears to be in jeopardy, however, following an outbreak of COVID-19 within the program.
The university announced on Friday that it had paused practices and other group activities while it dealt with the outbreak. An announcement about the Week 3 game against Houston would be made next week, according to the release.
Citing a source, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that “at least 20 people within the program who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently in a 10-day isolation period” while “at least another 20” are in quarantine because of contract tracing. The spike in cases is reportedly attributed to a party bus carrying members of the team following the win over Arkansas State.
At least one player, Memphis defensive lineman O’Bryan Goodson Jr., has disputed that account, though. Moreover, it would seem Goodson is implying the outbreak was Arkansas State’s fault in some way.
Fortunately, Memphis has indicated that none of the cases are serious. However, if the party bus story is true — again, that’s being disputed — it would illustrate the difficulty in carrying out a college football season. If it’s not true and an outbreak was caused by a traveling team, that’s bad, too, if not worse. In any case, there are myriad ways for disruptions. Positive cases are one thing and should be treated seriously regardless of who contracts the virus, but contact tracing protocols are what can decimate a depth chart.
Already, several games have been rescheduled or postponed indefinitely due to either an outbreak or preparation times affected by an outbreak. The season isn’t even two weeks old yet. Disruptions have been, and will continue to be, a part of the 2020 season — for however long that season will be.