Days From Its Delayed Football Opener, Cal Is Stalled Again by the Virus


Gloria Kaci, the director of stadium event operations at Cal, led a Zoom meeting on Monday to organize logistics for the football team’s season opener on Saturday night. She directed about 60 employees from across the athletic department.

A major college football game during regular times is a complex puzzle, with a stadium full of fans, but places like Cal have held them for decades. The game-day process has embedded itself into institutional muscle memory.

Hosting a football game during a pandemic means rethinking almost everything.

“Hold on to your hats, because it’s going to be a very bumpy ride,” Kaci told the group.

The ride came to an abrupt end on Thursday. At noon, Kaci sent an email to the athletic department.

“It is with disappointment that we must announce that Saturday’s game vs. Washington has been canceled,” she wrote.

An unnamed Cal player had tested positive for the coronavirus earlier in the week. With the required isolation of those in contact with him, including his entire position group, Cal could not stage the game.

The game was declared a “no contest” by the Pac-12 Conference on Thursday. There are no immediate plans to reschedule it.

Coach Justin Wilcox declined to say how many players were required to isolate, in accordance with local health guidelines, but it extended beyond one position and included non-players. All have continued to test negative, Wilcox said. The university, set in Berkeley, is negotiating with health officials there to determine when each isolated member of the football program may return to team gatherings, since extended isolations could jeopardize the Nov. 14 game at Arizona State, too.

“We are confident that we have made the right decision,” Jim Knowlton, Cal’s athletic director, said. “As we have seen across the country, we knew that there would be Covid-19 challenges, and we will continue to follow our protocols to support the health of our student-athletes.”

With its first games on Saturday, the Pac-12 will become the last major college conference to start its football season and to try to squeeze in a condensed schedule before the end of the year. It feels a bit as though the league is arriving late and sober to a party full of tiring drunk people.

Days later, it was all a moot point. Kaci’s email summed it up.

“Our next home game will be on November 27th vs. Stanford — The Big Game,” she concluded.

Plans will be made.


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