In the kind of relevant statistics familiar by now but unforeseeable as recently as December, Notre Dame said in a statement that it had administered 94 tests Monday, with seven coming back positive. “Those seven student-athletes are in isolation and their close contacts have been/are being identified,” the statement read. “In consultation with the St. Joseph County Department of Health, the Notre Dame football program has decided to pause all football-related activities until further testing is completed. Combined with last week’s testing results, a total of 13 players are currently in isolation, with 10 in quarantine.”
The development meant that the pandemic has limited Notre Dame to one ACC game in September, a 27-13 home win over Duke on Sept. 12, after it also pushed the Irish into that conference for a one-off season. It illustrated the extra challenges for the football-coach subspecies so adoring of routine, such as Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, who looked from last season toward this one with College Football Playoff hopes and who now copes with unpredictable disruptions to football’s long-predictable flow.
“We managed an increase in positivity rates in August, and the players handled it wonderfully,” Kelly said in the statement. “We knew COVID would present challenges throughout the season, and we’ll always put student-athlete health and safety at the forefront of our decision-making. We look forward to resuming team activities and getting back on the playing field.”
Of the 18 postponements or cancellations, this became the first to involve a team considered a part of the College Football Playoff picture back before spring practice got wiped out. Notre Dame appeared in the playoff for the first time two seasons ago, losing in a Cotton Bowl semifinal against Clemson.
It was a reminder that this season hinges on telephone calls from one athletic director to another, such as the one Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick placed to Wake Forest Athletic Director John Currie on Tuesday. On Sept. 2, the game already had been moved from its original setting of Charlotte to Winston-Salem, the home of Wake Forest.
Six FBS conferences have seen games canceled or postponed, with four games disrupted in the ACC. Virginia Tech’s home games with North Carolina State and Virginia moved from Sept. 12 to this weekend in the former case, and Sept. 19 to Dec. 12 in the latter. North Carolina prepared to welcome Charlotte last weekend as the Tar Heels’ lone nonconference game under the new ACC format, but Charlotte had to cancel two days beforehand because it lacked enough offensive linemen. Notre Dame and Wake Forest made for the fourth.
Six FBS programs — Virginia Tech, Marshall, Rice, Houston, Memphis and Baylor — have seen the disruption of two games each since the troubled season got going. In the cases of Houston and Baylor, they responded to postponements of one early game each by quickly arranging a meeting with each other for Sept. 19 at Baylor to fill the void. Later that game, too, got postponed.
The 18 changes during the season do not include some games involving Rice, which announced Aug. 10 it would delay the start of the season to Sept. 26. The first six original games on Rice’s schedule all stand postponed or canceled for various reasons, including a visit to Houston (postponed), a home game with Army (canceled), a game with LSU (canceled), a home game with Lamar (canceled), a road game with Marshall (postponed) and a home game with UAB (postponed). The official schedule as of Tuesday showed a home opener with Middle Tennessee on Oct. 24.