Texas ramps up to play Baylor team hampered by COVID-19

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Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

The Texas football team is set to play Baylor Saturday in the annual battle of I-35 — so long as the Bears get their COVID-19 situation under control.

Baylor returned to practice Sunday after the university announced Oct. 8 all football activities would be suspended due to a recent surge in coronavirus cases on the team.

Baylor Athletics Director Mack Rhoades announced Oct. 12 that 28 players and 14 football staff members had tested positive. The Big 12 postponed the Bears’ Oct. 17 game against Oklahoma State to Dec. 12 as a result of the outbreak. 

The Oklahoma State game was the third matchup on the Bears’ schedule to be canceled or postponed. Baylor was scheduled to start its season on Sept. 12, along with Texas and the rest of the Big 12, but positive coronavirus cases plagued the Bears’ first opponent, Louisiana Tech, and forced the teams to postpone. 

Baylor’s start to the season was delayed again when coronavirus concerns on the team led the Big 12 to postpone its matchup against Houston Sept. 19.

"We're heartbroken from this postponement," Baylor head coach Dave Aranda said in a press release following the cancellation. "While we've been eager to play football this fall, we have all made a commitment to only do so with the highest level of safety and care for our student-athletes.”

 

In order for the game between the Longhorns and Bears to take place Saturday according to the Big 12 football game cancellation thresholds, both teams must field a minimum of 53 players, including scholarship and walk-on players.

Texas head coach Tom Herman said Monday that the coronavirus situation on his team has been “really, really good.” Texas Athletics has not reported any new cases on the team since June, when it announced that 13 Longhorns had tested positive for the virus.

As far as Herman is concerned, Baylor has everything under control now, too.

“Our assumption is that Baylor will be here,” Herman said. “How many players they’ll have active for that game, I’m not quite sure.”

Aranda said Monday that he feels confident about fielding 11 players on both offense and defense Saturday, and “everyone is negative.”

“I feel like by the middle of the week, we'll have most everybody back,” Aranda said. “So far, so good, headed in the right direction.”

The outbreak at Baylor is part of a larger trend of coronavirus cases on college football teams. The University of Florida suspended all football activities after a round of coronavirus testing last week left the team under the SEC’s 53-man roster limit for a game to take place. The SEC postponed the Gators’ games against LSU to Dec. 12 and Missouri to Oct. 31. 

Florida head coach Dan Mullen tested positive for the virus Saturday, and he joined a growing list of college football head coaches who have done so. 

“As the fall turns into winter, I think you’re going to see more and more of this,” Herman said. “I don’t think this caught anybody by surprise, none of us at least. We knew that this was definitely a pitfall.”

Due to the complications, Baylor has only played two games this season. One was a close loss, and the other was a blowout win, so the Bears are a mystery in more ways than one.

“We’ve got graduate students and secretaries and everybody, student assistants, scouring the Baylor media sites, especially their message boards and fan boards,” Herman said. “We’re trying to figure out who we’re going to play.”