BOCA RATON – If Florida Atlantic football opens its season on Saturday – still far from a certainty – the Owls will most assuredly be undermanned against South Florida.
FAU postponed this past weekend’s game against Georgia Southern after learning it would be without 25 players because of COVID-19 related concerns.
“As of now the plan is to play,” FAU coach Willie Taggart said. “We get a couple guys back.”
Last week 11 players tested positive early in the week, with another batch of players receiving positive results the four days later.
All positive cases were forwarded to FAU’s department of Student Health Services for contact tracing. Approximately half of the 25 players who would have missed the Georgia Southern game would have been held out as a result of contact tracing.
FAU is following CDC guidelines, which call for the isolation of those who test positive for at least 10 days.
The best case scenario for those who tested positive in that initial group is that they won’t be able to return to practice until Wednesday at the earliest. It’s possible – if not likely – that if any of those who tested positive in the first group are cleared to play on Saturday, they will only be able to practice with the team once or twice before game day.
Players who tested positive in Thursday’s batch of tests could be eligible to leave isolation on Saturday. Whether they could play without having practiced all week would ultimately be up to coach Willie Taggart and the FAU training staff.
The rules for return of those identified through contract tracing are a little different.
Contact tracing exposures requires the student be quarantined, separating them from the general campus population and restricting their movements.
In some ways more restrictive than a positive test, a quarantined student who never tests positive must still remain separated for 14 days. That would mean that all players quarantined last week as a result of contract tracing conducted earlier in the week will not be cleared to play on Saturday against USF.
FAUOwlAccess.com reported last week that more than half of the probable defensive starters were among that first batch of 11 players who tested positive early last week. A source tells FAUOwlAccess.com that the second batch of tests also disproportionately affected defensive players.
FAU players, coaches and staff are scheduled to undergo another set of COVID-19 tests on Thursday. The results they receive on Friday could ultimately determine whether Saturday’s game is played as scheduled.
Florida Atlantic’s first two games of the season, at Minnesota and against Stony Brook, were canceled months ago. The Owls have a tentative agreement with Georgia Southern to make up Saturday’s postponed game on Dec. 5, should FAU not reach the Conference USA title game scheduled for the same day.
A source within FAU athletics said it’s also possible both sides could agree to play on a date later than Dec. 5.