UNT COVID

North Texas canceled its game against Houston on Saturday due to a COVID-19 outbreak among its football players. 

North Texas’ game at Houston on Saturday has been canceled due to a coronavirus outbreak at UNT.

The schools made the announcement Wednesday afternoon.

UNT is dealing with four active coronavirus cases across its entire athletics department following its last round of testing conducted last week. School officials have not disclosed if the people who have tested positive are athletes, coaches or administrators.

UNT officials said Wednesday that the four people who have tested positive are in isolation and their contacts have been identified. The fallout from contact tracing will prevent the Mean Green from playing this week.

“We knew that there would be challenges with COVID-19 this season and we were taking precautions to hopefully avoid this situation,” UNT athletic director Wren Baker said in a statement. “Our student-athlete health and safety is the priority in every decision we make and that is what this difficult decision is based on. We are hopeful we can resume safe activities soon.”

Despite both schools announcing the game is canceled, UNT said they are working to find a date to reschedule the game.

The game is the second UNT has lost to the pandemic. The Mean Green were scheduled to play at Texas A&M on Sept. 12. That game was lost when the SEC elected to move to a 10-game conference-only schedule.

UNT has played two games so far this season. The Mean Green beat Houston Baptist in their season opener before falling to SMU last weekend.

School officials acknowledged before UNT’s game against SMU that linebackers KD Davis and Tyreke Davis would not play against the Mustangs due to medical reasons. UNT coach Seth Littrell declined to provide additional details after the game.

UNT athletic department officials formulated a plan to deal with the pandemic after the school shut down its campus in March. The plan was based on testing and social distancing.

Conference USA later adopted standards for its schools that includes testing football players for COIVD-19 three times per week.

UNT officials expressed confidence in their plan before the school’s football players began reporting back to campus in June.

Littrell has consistently praised the school’s administration and his players for the way they have handled the pandemic.

“Our testing has been unbelievable,” Littrell said earlier this fall. “Our players have done a great job of staying in our bubble and doing the things that are necessary for us to play ball.”

The school has held down the number of infections it has experienced since its athletes began returning to campus but has had a steady trickle of infections over the last few weeks.

UNT has had 26 members of the department recover from an infection. The school had conducted 3,442 total tests as of Monday.

Houston has not played a game this season. The Cougars were set to face Baylor last week in a game the schools added to their schedule earlier this fall.

Baylor canceled the game due to COVID-19-related issues. Houston has now had five games either canceled or postponed, a list that also includes games against Rice, Washington State and Memphis.

“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. “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.”

UNT will now turn its attention to its Conference USA opener. The Mean Green are scheduled to host Southern Miss on Oct. 3 at Apogee Stadium.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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