The Arizona State football program has more than a dozen coronavirus cases and there are internal fears the Sun Devils could lose more than a game against Cal, SunDevilSource.com’s Chris Karpman told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta.
The Sun Devils on Friday canceled their game against California after coach Herm Edwards and an undisclosed number of players and coaches tested positive for the virus.
Karpman told Bickley & Marotta that he started hearing about the outbreak on Wednesday.
He said speculation ramped up after the program canceled its Thursday practice, ahead of the university’s statement confirming the cancellation and cases on Friday.
Karpman said it’s his belief that roughly half of the team’s coaching staff, including head coach Herm Edwards, as well as the majority of one of the team’s position groups, have tested positive for the virus.
His estimate is that a total of around 20 or more players and coaches have tested positive so far.
The exact impact that the outbreak will have on the team’s remaining regular season games is unknown, according to Karpman.
“My understanding though is they’re pretty skeptical internally at ASU about being able to play at Colorado [on Nov. 21] given the magnitude of this,” Karpman said.
Karpman added the common belief coming into the week was that the Golden Bears would be the ones responsible for any game cancellations.
That belief stemmed from the team’s opening week cancellation, which was the end result of a single positive coronavirus test that forced an entire position group to quarantine because of contact tracing rules in the city of Berkeley.
Karpman said that many around the program were tossing around the idea of having ASU play another healthy team with a COVID-19 cancellation this week.
That idea came to an abrupt end once ASU’s outbreak spread.
Karpman explained how difficult it would be for the Golden Bears, or any other Pac-12 team, to play a previously unscheduled game against another team with a cancellation.
“I just think a lot of people this week were talking about ‘well, maybe if Cal can’t play, ASU can play UCLA’,” Karpman said. “The problem though, as you guys know, is you have to prepare for the opponent that you’re going to play.
“You can’t just go, ‘OK, we’re playing UCLA now. Cool.’ I just don’t think that fans realize the dozens of hours that go into a game plan for an opponent.”
Karpman said that ASU’s outbreak mirrors the rapid spread of the virus nationally, with 14 Football Bowl Subdivision contests canceled this weekend as of this writing.
“It’s one more big piece in what’s really taking shape, I would say, across football,” Karpman said. “There’s been a lot of games that have been canceled. It seems like it’s getting increasingly dire as the sort of outbreaks mirrors across the country what’s happening.”
Karpman was on the fence about the impact that Edwards’ positive test could have on the decision about whether to cancel or delay the rest of the regular season.
“I do think Herm Edwards being a big name has the ability to impact people maybe a little bit more, especially when it’s part of a very large outbreak that you have at a major program,” Karpman said.
“But I think people are still going to probably stick in their corners of how they sort of feel about these things at an emotional, gut level.”
Karpman said the Pac-12’s decision to start the season on Nov. 7, just as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic started its ebb, backs them into a corner.
The conference might have avoided some of their cancellations to date if they started earlier, Karpman said, though the conference’s impetus on student-athlete wellness likely scuttled such an idea.
“If they have the daily testing in place earlier, and maybe some of the concerns about heart issues had been resolved, then they could have played in say September, when there was a lot less COVID outbreak,” Karpman said.
“But they felt like they needed to have those things in place, but then by waiting to have those, you basically lose your margin of error. And then, you’re doing it at a time where COVID is a lot more prevalently spread in these communities. So, it’s not really a surprise that you would have a harder time staying away from the virus within your team.”
Karpman said the best case scenario for the Sun Devils would be if enough players and coaches are healthy to play against Colorado on Nov. 21.
The Sun Devils, who are 0-1 this season, have four games left in their six-game regular season as of now, though a seventh game might be added on at a later date.
From there, the Sun Devils can try to get a win and make the best of what’s left, Karpman said, though much is up in the air at the current moment.
“Maybe somehow ASU can win that game, put some of the COVID stuff behind it rolling into its subsequent weeks,” Karpman said. “Herm Edwards maybe is able to coach after that game in say the final three games of the regular season or all four games, with the seventh game.
“All things considered, that would be somewhat of a good season. But I just think that things are stacking up against them now.”