It wasn’t a call Rick George was looking forward to making, but on Friday, the Colorado athletic director had to let his counterpart at Colorado State know their annual showdown wouldn’t be played.
On Monday, George held a Zoom call with media and said he was disappointed to see the rivalry game with CSU canceled after the Pac-12 announced it would go to a conference-only schedule this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am disappointed that we won’t be playing CSU and being able to go up in their new stadium,” George said. “We were looking forward to that. This has been a great series and we’re disappointed that we will not be kicking off our season with CSU.”
The Buffs and Rams were scheduled to open the season Sept. 5 at CSU’s Canvas Stadium, which opened in 2017. The two in-state rivals have played every year since 1995, but haven’t squared off in Fort Collins since 1996. In the 23 matchups since, 19 have been held in Denver and four in Boulder.
This year’s game was to end a 25-year run in the series, as the Buffs and Rams are not scheduled to play again until 2023 in Boulder.
George said there was discussion within the Pac-12 of still playing traditional non-conference rivalries, particularly in-state games. However, keeping the schedule within the conference allows the Pac-12 to control safety protocols and schedule flexibility.
“For us, we felt the best way for us to do (play football) was to play conference only because then we could assure that we all have the same protocols in place, the same consistency across the board, and it gave us the most flexibility in scheduling those contests,” George said.
When the Pac-12 made the decision, George contacted CSU athletic director Joe Parker to let him know the game would be canceled.
“Joe Parker and I are good friends,” George said. “We wear different colors but we’re good friends and we communicate quite often and he knows how difficult a decision that was for our conference and for us individually. I’d love to play Colorado State. Joe and I will continue to have discussions on the future.
“It was a decision our conference made. I support the conference decision. Would I have liked to be able to play CSU? The answer is yes.”
CU also had a Sept. 12 home date with Fresno State and a Sept. 19 road trip to Texas A&M canceled. George contacted the athletic directors at both schools and said CU will continue discussing rescheduling those games in the future.
The CU women’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams also had non-conference games canceled. Cross country does not have the conference schedule and George said “their schedule will be addressed in the coming days.”
No further positives
On June 22, George told BuffZone that four student-athletes had tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began on June 1.
George said Monday there have been no other positive tests and that the four who did test positive have been cleared to work out in the facilities.
“We do temperature checks and symptom checks every day,” he said. “I do one every day I come into the office. … The key thing is, wear your mask, clean your hands, do all those little things. … We’ll start surveillance testing this week on all of our student-athletes so we’ll have multiple tests as we move forward on our student-athletes. We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that our student-athletes are in a safe and healthy environment.”
Part of the Pac-12’s announcement last week was that athletes who didn’t feel comfortable playing this year could opt out and maintain their scholarship. George said that to his knowledge no CU athletes have opted out at this point.
“Certainly during this pandemic we have taken great strides to ensure that we’re informing the parents of our student-athletes, as we’re informing our student-athletes, that it is a family decision for them to come back and, right now, work out voluntarily or to compete this fall,” he said.
George said “close to 175” CU athletes have been tested and cleared to voluntarily work out in facilities. … Since athletes were allowed to return on June 15, CU has provided more than 4,000 meals to them, including a daily high of 277 on Monday. … A spring football season remains on the table, George said, but added, “There’s no assurance that things are going to be better in the spring. It’s important for us that we get prepared to play this fall; there may be disruptions, but we’re going to do everything we can at Colorado to be prepared to play when that moment comes.”