North Texas’ homecoming football game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday has been postponed due to coronavirus issues within UNT’s program.
UNT made the announcement on Thursday afternoon.
The school’s statement said that university officials were forced to call off the game due to a series of active COVID-19 cases and contact tracing issues among its players. UNT did not state how many cases it is dealing with, but a school source said the program has 30 players who would have been unavailable due to coronavirus issues in addition to those who would have been out due to injuries.
“We are very disappointed to announce the postponement of our game against Louisiana Tech this weekend,” UNT athletic director Wren Baker said in a statement. “However, it is necessary in the interest of the health and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. We’ve appreciated the consistent dialogue with our colleagues at Louisiana Tech and we look forward to safely resuming play.”
UNT officials said they hope to make up the game the weekend of Dec. 5.
The Mean Green have now had back-to-back games postponed due to coronavirus-related issues. UNT’s game at UTEP last week was called off due to a spike in cases in El Paso and later rescheduled for Dec. 12 in El Paso.
“Although we are disappointed we won’t get to play this Saturday, we support the decision that has been made for the welfare of everyone involved,” Louisiana Tech athletic director Eric Wood said in a statement. “We understand the current situation at North Texas.”
UNT was forced to cancel a game at Houston on Sept. 26 due to a spike in coronavirus cases within the program that cut into the number of linebackers it had available.
UNT’s game at Texas A&M, scheduled for Sept. 12, was also called off when the SEC went to a 10-game, conference-only schedule.
The Mean Green have not played since knocking off Middle Tennessee State University on Oct. 17. UNT’s next game is scheduled for Nov. 14 at UAB.
UNT coach Seth Littrell expressed hope that the Mean Green would be able to play Louisiana Tech while also acknowledging the uncertainty surrounding the season during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
“You’re never guaranteed anything,” Littrell said. “That’s where we’re at this season. We’re doing the best we can as a coaching staff, as players and everyone else around the program to do all the necessary things to make sure we’re healthy and we can control what we can control.”
UNT’s athletics department put several measures in place to try to avoid coronavirus infections from spreading within its program as its players began reporting back to campus in June. The school instituted regular testing for the coronavirus and implemented social distancing practices.
The measures helped UNT hold down the number of infections it was dealing with for the early part of the fall. The school’s athletics program didn’t have a single active coronavirus case after a round of testing that was completed prior to its football team’s loss to Charlotte on Oct. 10.
The school saw its case count slowly rise before its active cases jumped from three to 15 after its last round of testing of the entire athletic department was conducted last week. The school has not released its weekly testing figures publicly. A school source provided them to the Denton Record-Chronicle on Monday morning.
That spike in cases forced UNT to postpone its game against Louisiana Tech, a move that leaves the school with little wiggle room as it looks to play as many games as possible this season.
UNT has played just five games so far while posting a 2-3 record.
UNT is a member of Conference USA, which pushed its conference title game back from Dec. 5 to Dec. 18 in the hope that its member schools would be able to reschedule games that have been postponed for early December.
The Mean Green’s last game on its original schedule was Nov. 28 at UTSA. UNT has filled one of the possible dates to reschedule games when it agreed to play at UTEP on the second of two Saturdays available after C-USA pushed its title game back.
If the school follows through and reschedules its game against Louisiana Tech for Dec. 5, it will have no open dates remaining. UNT would be looking at playing five straight weeks to end the regular season.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted teams from across the country. A host of games have been canceled or postponed, including multiple games in C-USA. The league announced Tuesday that it has rescheduled seven games that were postponed earlier this fall.
UNT’s game at UTEP was among those games. The Mean Green had five games on their schedule at that point.
That number was reduced by one on Thursday, when yet another game was postponed, this time due to a coronavirus outbreak at UNT that wiped out its game against Louisiana Tech.