When word leaked out on Monday that Florida Atlantic was dealing with multiple COVID-19 positive cases on the football team many Georgia Southern fans feared the worst, that the game would be cancelled. When that number appeared to be 11 or 12 cases many knew what we were in store for. Friday morning things became official, as the Eagles and Owls game is postponed until possibly December.
“I got a call Monday evening from FAU saying they had an uptick in positive tests, and were concerned about Saturday’s game,” said Georgia Southern Athletics Director Jared Benko. “They were testing Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I got a call Friday morning saying they had gone from about 11 positives to about 18 with seven more. After consulting with their student health center they decided they weren’t coming here.”
The game has been officially postponed, and will likely be made up on December 5th, which was the original date of the Sun Belt Championship game. Benko said the conference is being flexible with the championship date, as this will probably not be the only game in the conference affected this season.
“FAU has already had conversations with Conference USA, and we are going to try our best to work with that date of December 5th,” said Benko. “We as a conference have flexibility on the championship game since it is not tied to a third party agreement at a neutral site. The conference has opened up the possibility of playing make-up games on December 12th, or even the 19th.”
The Eagles had 33 players miss their season opener, and it is rumored they only had one player that had an actual positive COVID-19 test. The Owls had at least 18 players with a positive test, so their number of contact tracing would have probably kept more than half their lineup at home. Benko has said there is no specific number that would cause a cancellation as far as Georgia Southern is concerned.
“For us we are going to try to play every single game,” Benko said. “Last week was a testament to our coaches and our student athletes for saying we may be 33 players down, but we are still going forward. I think it’s the resolve we have to make Eagle Nation proud. We don’t have a specific number we are looking at though, each week will be different case by case.”
Benko is well aware that there could be other games affected due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing, but he feels the Sun Belt Conference has done a great job preparing for that. Benko is confident they are doing all they can to get in as many games as possible.
“”The conference has been great,” said Benko. “I’m pretty sure there are already two other Sun Belt teams playing on December 5th. We talked early on that there may be a lot of ups and downs this year, and that we needed to have some flexibility on the back end of our schedules. The championship game can be moved around depending who is in that slot toward the end of the year.”
One thing the Eagles will probably not get to make up is the fact that the game was scheduled for ESPN, and would have been the first game televised by ESPN at Paulson Stadium since the 1990 Division 1-AA Championship game.
“Obviously it is disappointing when you are not able to play a game on prime time television on ESPN,” said Benko. “That 3;30 spot on ESPN was huge, and a great advertisement for the school, and a chance to show our product on the field. Television usually plans things out a couple weeks in advance, so we don’t really know what will happen, but we are hopeful something can be arranged.”
The Eagles will now set their sights on heading to Louisiana for a meeting with the Rajun Cajuns Saturday at 12:00. The next home game scheduled is Thursday October 14th against Appalachian State.