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LSU-Alabama in jeopardy, Auburn-MSU postponed as several SEC teams deal with COVID-19 outbreaks

Sam Cooper
·4-min read

LSU’s game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday is in jeopardy after multiple LSU players tested positive for COVID-19.

Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron said Monday that multiple players will be unavailable for the game due to positive tests and subsequent contact tracing. Orgeron said the players currently in quarantine include multiple starters and that it is a “very fluid situation.”

Orgeron would not specify how many players are out, but The Athletic is reporting that the Tigers are dealing with four positive cases. However, The Athletic’s report says that contact tracing has left LSU with just one available scholarship quarterback and “no long snappers or tight ends available for Saturday.” The quarterback reportedly available is freshman TJ Finley, who has started the last two games with Myles Brennan sidelined. Brennan could miss the rest of the season, Orgeron said.

SEC protocols say that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must enter a mandatory 10-day quarantine while those deemed a “high-risk contact” must be quarantined for 14 days. Additionally, the SEC says teams must have a minimum of 53 scholarship players available in order to play. Position requirements include one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen.

Sports Illustrated is reporting that the Tigers are “dangerously close” to the 53-man limit and that the outbreak was traced back to a party. SEC policies say that schools may request to have a game rescheduled or considered a no contest if there are “compelling reasons” why a school “cannot begin a contest regardless of scholarship and position minimums.”

Orgeron said the school has been in contact with the SEC office about the situation, but as of Monday afternoon they are still preparing to play Alabama.

“It’s going to be challenging obviously with the guys that are out,” Orgeron said. “When they tell me we’re at a certain number and we can play or we can’t play, I think that’s up to the league and [LSU AD] Scott [Woodward]. And I think that by Wednesday that should be solidified. Right now, we’re playing Alabama and we’re ready to go.”

If the game cannot be played, rescheduling it may be a challenge. LSU has already had its bye week and its Oct. 17 game against Florida was moved to Dec. 12 due to UF’s issues with the virus. That means LSU has no remaining open weeks.

LSU, the defending national champions, beat Alabama last year en route to an undefeated season. This year, the Tigers are off to a 2-3 start. Alabama, meanwhile, is the No. 1 team in the country and currently has a 6-0 record.

Mississippi State vs. Auburn postponed

While no determination has been made about the LSU-Alabama game, the Auburn at Mississippi State game has been postponed.

MSU is dealing with positive tests in its program. MSU athletic director John Cohen said that the Bulldogs would be below the 53-man limit for the game against the Tigers.

"Based on positive tests and those considered as close contacts, along with non-COVID injuries, we do not have the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes available for Saturday's game against Auburn," Cohen said. "While we are disappointed that Saturday's game has been postponed, our priority is the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and staff. We will continue to follow all established protocols and evaluate the most responsible path to return to the field."

The SEC announced Monday that the game is tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12 in Starkville.

Other SEC programs dealing with COVID-19

Several other SEC programs are also dealing with virus issues.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday that it has paused activities for the day after two people — one player and one student worker — tested positive for COVID-19 after the team’s trip to South Carolina.

Fisher said the entire team and staff were tested on Monday to try to prevent the virus from spreading. Contact tracing is underway.

Elsewhere, Arkansas announced Monday morning that head coach Sam Pittman has tested positive for the virus and was awaiting the results of a follow-up test.

“[Pittman] is not symptomatic and is in self-isolation at home,” an Arkansas statement said. “He retested this morning to confirm the results of Sunday’s test with those results still pending. All individuals who are considered close contacts have been notified and will enter quarantine guidelines.”

With Pittman in isolation, defensive coordinator Barry Odom will serve as the team’s interim head coach ahead of the upcoming game against Florida.

Additionally, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says his team is also experiencing some virus problems, though he would not characterize it as an outbreak.

“We have issues with COVID,” Stoops said. “It’s not out of control. Let’s hope it stays that way.”

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