For the second week in a row, Southern Miss will not play due to COVID-related issues. This time, however, the reason for the postponement is because of an increase of COVID-19 cases on Southern Miss’s team.
Early last Friday, Southern Miss announced that it postponed its game against the University of Texas of El Paso, originally scheduled for Oct. 17. Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain released a statement on the decision.
“The health and safety of everyone involved continues to be our guiding force[,] which made this decision to postpone the UTEP game the appropriate one,” McClain said. “We are disappointed for our student-athletes who will not get a chance to participate for a second-straight weekend[.] [However], we will work with UTEP, in conjunction with Conference USA, to reschedule this game for later this season.”
Southern Miss last played on Oct. 3 against North Texas. After returning from Denton, the team prepared for a home game versus Florida Atlantic University (FAU). However, FAU postponed the game due to positive COVID-19 cases on its team. According to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, FAU Head Coach Willie Taggart confirmed that a total of 18 players and nine staff members tested positive for COVID-19, which led to the game’s postponement.
Now, Southern Miss will have to reschedule the two postponed games to a later date. Earlier this week, Conference USA announced that it moved the conference championship to Dec. 18. The decision allows teams that have been affected by postponements to more easily reschedule.
“The shift of the Championship Game from its originally scheduled December 5th date will create two additional weeks to schedule games that were postponed due to COVID-19-related issues,” the statement said. “Dates and matchups for those [rescheduled] games will be announced at a later date.”
As of Oct. 16, there have been a total of 14 postponed and canceled games within Conference USA, mostly related to COVID-19.
The availability of players who have tested positive for COVID-19 may present a challenge for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are still scheduled to play on Oct. 24 at Liberty University, but how many Eagles will actually see the field is unknown. According to the NCAA’s “Resocialization of Collegiate Sport” guidelines, athletes who are exposed to COVID-19 are recommended to quarantine for 14 days.
“When an athlete tests positive for COVID-19, local public health officials must be notified, and contact tracing protocols must be put in place,” the NCAA document said. “All individuals with a high risk of exposure should be placed in quarantine for 14 days as per CDC guidance. This includes members of opposing teams after competition.”
Southern Miss is required to test all athletes three times a week though PCR and antigen testing methods, also required under Conference USA guidelines. If an athlete tests positive, they have to take an assortment of cardiovascular tests, which include echocardiograms, electrocardiograms and troponin level tests. These are taken to assure that the athletes do not have myocarditis, which is an inflammatory condition of the heart that has been linked to COVID-19.
Visit the Southern Miss Athletics Department’s official website at www.southernmiss.com for all further developments on this and all other sport scheduling changes.