BOISE — The coronavirus finally caught up to the Boise State football team.
The Broncos’ home game scheduled for Saturday against San Jose State was canceled less than five hours before kickoff beecause of COVID-19 cases in the Boise State program.
A team spokesman said nine players would have been out for the game because of positive cases and the resulting contact tracing, which actually is fewer than missed each of the previous two games.
But the nine players combined with those already out because of injuries put the Broncos below the recommended Mountain West Conference thresholds to play at “specific position groups,” a school official said.
Boise State announced later in the day that “with the exception of coaches accessing their offices and student-athletes utilizing the training room, Boise State has paused all football-related activities as a result of today’s cancellation. The Broncos are slated to resume practice on Tuesday, pending results from the team’s previously-scheduled testing (today).”
The Broncos previously had 14 players out for COVID-19 protocols against Colorado State and 12 at Hawaii last week.
Boise State interim athletic director Bob Carney and coach Bryan Harsin are scheduled to meet with the media today, but Carney released a statement Saturday after the game was canceled.
“Because of a delay at the lab, our results from Thursday’s tests didn’t come back until late yesterday, which meant our staff were contact tracing until late last night,” Carney said. “Under the circumstances, and with limited numbers within specific position groups, our coaches, administration and medical personnel met this morning and determined that it was not in the best interest of our student-athletes’ safety and well-being to play today’s game. I am disappointed for the student-athletes, coaches and fans, both at Boise State and San Jose State, and am hopeful the Broncos will be able to return to the field this next week against UNLV.”
The cancellation came with many of Boise State’s senior parents in town for what was supposed to be Senior Day on the Blue. The game was set to feature two of the three undefeated Mountain West teams on Fox in Boise State’s first network television home game since 2010.
The Mountain West declared the game a no-contest, saying there is no plan to reschedule the game.
The defensive and offensive line were creeping close to the minimums the past two weeks against Colorado State and Hawaii. The school didn’t confirm if they were the impacted positions, but it’s not hard to put two and two together.
The Mountain West says a team must have at least four interior defensive lineman and seven offensive linemen to play. A team could choose to play with less than that if it wanted to.
Against Colorado State, the Broncos dressed just five interior defensive linemen, one above the minimum. Offensive lineman Ben Dooley was forced to play along the defensive line to add depth and had two tackles.
Nose tackles Keeghan Freeborn and Herbert Gums are out for the season because of injuries and Scale Igiehon has been in and out of the lineup the past few games because of an injury as well. Jackson Cravens hasn’t played the past two games for unknown reasons.
The Broncos dressed just six interior defensive linemen against Hawaii last week, including three true freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
The offensive line also was dealing with depth issues in recent weeks. The Broncos dressed just 10 against Colorado State and 11 against Hawaii.
Of the nine players that would have missed the San Jose State game, Boise State said five were for positive tests and four for contact tracing.
San Jose State (4-0) was looking for its biggest win in several years.
“We arrived in Boise on Friday and learned this news Saturday morning,” San Jose State athletic director Marie Tuite said. “Our players and coaches were looking forward to this game with great anticipation. It is a big disappointment to everyone that we are not able to play this game.”
Boise State is scheduled to play at UNLV on Friday and Wyoming on Dec. 12 to finish out the regular season. Wins in both those games would put the Broncos in the Mountain West title game.
Current Mountain West rules say teams must play within two games of the average number of conference games played by teams in the league to be eligible for the Mountain West Championship on Dec. 19. That current number is six, meaning the Broncos need to only play four games — which they already have — to be eligible.