SALT LAKE CITY — Just days after Utah canceled its season-opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium against Arizona, its matchup against UCLA is expected to continue as originally planned, but will be moved to Saturday, Nov. 14.
The game, which will now be played at 8:30 p.m. MT and broadcast on FOX, was moved back a day to help accommodate a Utah request to move the contest in hopes to have its players eligible due to positive COVID-19 test results.
"We greatly appreciate the understanding and flexibility of UCLA, the Pac-12 and our conference television rights holders to consider the challenges we have been working through over the past several days with regard to our recent increases in positive COVID-19 cases within our football program," Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement.
He added that the team has had two straight days of testing with no positive COVID-19 test results and he hopes the team will be able to resume practice on Monday. "We continue to rigorously reinforce all health and safety protocols related to the virus throughout our department," he said.
"While we are encouraged by all indicators today that our football program may proceed with preparations for this week's game, we also recognize the challenges presented by the virus and that our status could change as we continue our daily testing program," Harlan said. "We will continue to be guided by our medical professionals in all of our decisions and prioritize the well-being and safety of our student-athletes, as I have said from the beginning of the pandemic."
Utah was unable to field a team last Saturday due to several of its players either testing positive for the virus or in quarantine. Under Pac-12 guidelines, players must quarantine for 14 days after a positive test or if asked to quarantine.
Teams need at least 53 scholarship players and at least seven offensive linemen, one quarterback and four defensive linemen available to be eligible to play a game, though a team may play with fewer if it so chooses. Utah elected to cancel its first game due to "a number of positive COVID-19 cases among student-athletes within the football program."
Utah athletic director Mark Harlan tweeted an update Saturday defending the privacy of the test results while noting his understanding of the need for transparency during a global pandemic. He said the team had "good testing results" on Saturday and will test again Sunday, upon which more clarity will be given on the status of the game.
"Our coaches and students have been (diligent) but we ALL have to do more," he continued in another tweet. "Thank you to all who have reached out to our team with support as it has meant a lot. More to come tomorrow (Sunday) and (let's) all wear masks for each other, stay safe and play ball."
Utah is one of four teams — Arizona, California and Washington — from the Pac-12 that were not allowed to play their season-openers Saturday due to positive COVID-19 test results among players and staff. Utah, however, is still receiving votes in the latest Associated Press and Coaches Poll rankings that were released Sunday.
While Utah will be playing its first game of the season, UCLA opened up the season with a 48-42 road loss to Colorado. The Buffaloes took a 35-7 lead in the first half before the Bruins slowly chipped away at the lead before ultimately falling short.