BOCA RATON – If ever a bye week is coming at the right time for a team, it’s this upcoming week for FAU.
Eight players tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, prompting the postponement of Saturday’s game at Southern Miss. An additional 12 players have been identified via contact tracing and are subject to quarantine.
Two position groups were heavily impacted by the tests. Sources tell OwlAccess.com that one was the offensive line. The second group is unclear.
The scarcities at those position groups created by the positive tests prompted FAU’s decision not to play.
The Owls also made the call to ensure there was enough time for complete contact tracing within the team. FAU didn’t want to take anyone who could potentially have been exposed to COVID on the plain, thereby risking exposing others.
FAU would also have been without nine football staff members who had either tested positive or been identified through contact tracing. Sources told OwlAccess.com that seven of those nine were FAU assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and co-offensive coordinator Clint Trickett.
Florida Atlantic has started the process of contact tracing following those eight player positives. Those efforts will almost certainly lead to more players being quarantined.
The eight players who tested positive would have still been in their mandated 10-day isolation on Oct. 17 and couldn’t have played that Saturday if the Owls had a game scheduled for that day.
Any player identified through contact tracing would have to be quarantined for 14 days, so they too would not have been cleared to play had a game been scheduled.
In fact, the large number of players likely to be sidelined by contact tracing combined with the known positive tests would have likely forced the postponement of a game had one been scheduled for Oct. 17.
The question for FAU now is, how can the Owls even practice during the bye week? While the timing of the bye week is good for FAU, any disruption of practice would come at a poor time for the Owls.
FAU is next scheduled to take the field on Oct. 24 at Marshall, arguably Conference USA’s best team. The Owls’ path for a return to the C-USA title game runs through Huntington, WV.
The eight players who tested positive will be eligible to return for that game, provided they are asymptomatic.
Any player identified via contact tracing from Thursday’s positive results will be quarantined for 14 days starting with the date of their last contact with the person who tests positive. That likely means the dozen or so players already identified via contact tracing won’t practice until the Thursday before the game.
So, yes, the timing of the bye week is fortunate for FAU. But the Owls may actually need two bye weeks. The way this season is going for FAU, it’s not unreasonable to think they will get exactly that, one way or another.