Navy-Memphis football game postponed due to ongoing coronavirus issues at Naval Academy
By BILL WAGNER | The Capital | Published: November 10, 2020
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Navy football's Saturday home game against Memphis has been postponed due to ongoing coronavirus issues among the Midshipmen, the American Athletic Conference announced Tuesday afternoon. The Capital first reported the postponement, the second in as many weeks for Navy after its scheduled contest against Tulsa this past Saturday was postponed last week.
Navy paused all football activities last Wednesday after it was revealed that positive tests for COVID-19 and subsequent contact tracing had sent a significant number of players into the isolation wing at Bancroft Hall.
According to multiple sources, more Navy football players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Nov. 2, when Navy first had a couple players test positive during program-wide testing. The Capital has learned the Midshipmen would have been without upwards of 30 players Saturday had the Memphis game been played.
Navy last played at SMU on Oct. 31, a 51-37 loss in Dallas. Contact tracing resulted in upwards of 20 players being forced into isolation after testing on Nov. 2.
"We are disappointed to have to postpone a second game, however protocols and guidelines are very comprehensive both at the Naval Academy and within the American Athletic Conference," said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. "There are a number of medical personnel that have reviewed all the related issues and, in the end, an administrative decision has been made that clearly reflects the safety and welfare of all involved with both institutions."
No make-up dates have been announced for the two postponed games, as the Midshipmen do not have any mutual open dates with either Tulsa or Memphis through the rest of the 2020 season. However, the AAC will consider a number of options with regard to rescheduling.
"You work really hard during the offseason — you lift, you run, you train — so to get games pulled out from you is hard," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "There is no sense in me getting frustrated. It's 2020 and you just learn to roll with the punches. Obviously, we would love to play. Our guys want to play."
Senior cornerback Cameron Kinley, one of Navy's tri-captains, said during an video news conference Tuesday it was inevitable Navy football would eventually be impacted by the pandemic.
"I'm surprised we were able to make it this far, to be honest. A lot of teams had their stuff going on early in the season," he said. "It was bound to happen eventually."
Kinley admitted it "does feel kind of weird having all this time on your hands," but said a silver lining is that Navy's two-week pause in football activities has come during 12-week examinations and allowed players time to focus on their studies.
"Everybody's hurt, everybody's frustrated with so much stuff going on that we have no control over," Kinley said. "We don't know when we'll play again. We're trying to keep everyone focused and moving in the right direction."
Navy is scheduled to play at South Florida at 8 p.m. Nov. 21, but has open dates Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. However, Memphis and Tulsa already have games scheduled for both of those dates.
Gladchuk said Navy would prefer not to play an AAC makeup game the weekend prior to meeting archrival Army Dec. 12 at Michie Stadium on the campus of West Point.
This Saturday was supposed to be senior day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Kinley has already realized he and 23 classmates ultimately might not get to experience that ceremonial sendoff.
"Man, was Houston my last game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium? Those are the things you try not to think about it, but they can't help but dig into your mind," Kinley said. "More than anything, it teaches you to be grateful for every opportunity you get and learn to treat it like it's your last because you don't know what's to come in the future."
AAC member schools conduct testing three times per week. All pertinent members of a particular program — players, coaches, support personnel — are administered a RC-PCR diagnostic test on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Friday morning, anyone scheduled to be on the field for the next game is given a rapid antigen test.
Results of all testing are submitted to the AAC Medical Advisory Group, which consists of a medical professional from each of the member schools. That group meets weekly and makes recommendations to the commissioner regarding the safety and health risks of upcoming events.
The Medical Advisory Group only considers COVID-related issues and does not get involved with injuries, suspensions, players opting out or other issues. Reportedly, Temple had 38 players unavailable and still was required to play at Tulane Oct. 31. The Green Wave routed the depleted Owls, 38-3.
AAC officials said there is not a designated number of available student-athletes that automatically triggers the postponement or cancellation of a game. The Medical Advisory Group looks at each contest on its own and makes a recommendation to the commissioner based on the testing data.
Ultimately, the decision to play or not rests with the presidents of each participating school. Conference oversight has more to do with how contests would be rescheduled and/or counted for standings purposes.
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