But no team has exemplified the strange, frustrating college football world we’re living in more than Houston, which on Wednesday had an opponent postpone or cancel a game for the fifth time this season, this time North Texas.
The Cougars were supposed to start the season Sept. 3 against Rice, but that game was called off way back on Aug. 10 when the Owls halted all football-related activities (it’s still unclear whether Rice will play this season). Then Houston’s Sept. 12 game against Washington State was canceled after the Pac-12 ended its season. A game against Memphis on Sept. 18 was called off and not yet rescheduled after the Tigers saw a spike in cases.
With less than a week to spare, Houston worked out an agreement with Baylor to replace Memphis on the schedule, a game that was to take place on Saturday. But less than 24 hours before kickoff, the Bears announced that they would not meet Big 12 rules for the number of players required to play the game, and that game, too, was canceled.
North Texas is the latest Houston opponent to pull out. It’s now the end of September, and the Cougars have yet to take the field for a game. If all goes as planned in a season when that most certainly has not happened, Houston will take the field for the first time Oct. 8 against Tulane (a team that has gotten through two games without any postponements).
“We understand this COVID-related decision North Texas has made to not play Saturday’s game and appreciate the consistent dialogue with our program by UNT Athletics Director Wren Baker, his administration and medical staff during this week,” Houston Athletic Director Chris Pezman said in a statement Wednesday. “I am disappointed for our student-athletes who have continued to focus on competing this season and were ready to play this Saturday. We will continue to work to adjust our schedule with the hopes of playing as soon as we can.”
The cancellation of the Baylor game less than 24 hours before kickoff prompted a minor bout of saltiness from Houston Coach Dana Holgorsen, who seemed to claim that Baylor should have known much earlier in the week that it wouldn’t be able to play.
“You know, I don’t know how it gets to 22 hours before the game,” Holgorsen said during a radio appearance Monday. “We’ve had four games canceled, so we’re kind of used to that. How it gets to 22 hours before the game, I don’t know. I mean, there’s a reason why our conference and the Big 12 test three times a week. So I would think that our opponent kinda knows where they’re at just like we kinda knew where we were at.”
Baylor Athletic Director Mack Rhoades said Monday that it wasn’t until Thursday — a day after the Bears’ second round of coronavirus testing that week — that he became worried about whether the Houston game would be played. And according to Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt, Baylor could have met its personnel requirements by reinstating one offensive lineman who was suspended for disciplinary reasons and not health reasons. Coach Dave Aranda declined, saying it would set a negative precedent, and the game was called off.
“I would stick to whatever the rules were and whatever we believe in and whatever we said before,” Aranda said Monday in a radio interview. “And so I think there’s always going to be situations that arise, and I think this was one of them. There have been a few situations that have come up lately where right away I think to myself, ‘Hey, this is all about who we are.’ It’s bigger than whatever it is. Sometimes it hard to see past that, but it’s bigger than this. This is about who we are. And I think getting those things right all the time is important, but I think especially early.”
Baylor is scheduled to open its season Saturday against Kansas, and Aranda says he’ll have the necessary number of players. Houston, meanwhile, will have to wait some more to finally play this season, with its latest frustration summed up nicely by wide receiver Keith Corbin on Twitter: