Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Razorbacks have positive virus cases, but LSU game still on
Hunter Yurachek, director of athletics at the University of Arkansas, speaks Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Touchdown Club at Razorback Stadium to address questions regarding the Southeastern Conference and the university's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas is facing its most challenging in-season coronavirus football issue of the fall this week, multiple sources have told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Two staff members, who are not on-field coaches, and at least one player received a positive result from testing conducted Sunday, the Democrat-Gazette has confirmed. The resulting contact tracing has has led to 14-day quarantining for a number of personnel, both players and staff.
But Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said Tuesday afternoon that the Razorbacks’ roster numbers at this point are in good shape as it pertains to the mandatory levels required by the SEC medical guidance task force to play a game. The Razorbacks (3-4) are scheduled to host LSU at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“We have been dealing with positive tests and quarantining among all of our sports since our student-athletes returned back in June,” Yurachek told the Democrat-Gazette. “We will continue to deal with that. We’re dealing with it now. But it’s not impacting our ability to play games right now.”
Based on standards adopted by the SEC, teams must have 53 healthy scholarship players overall — including at least one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen — to play a game.
The UA athletic department has provided only a few updates on testing results and quarantining since the pandemic hit in March, and it did not on Tuesday.
Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman tested positive for covid-19 early last week, and he is scheduled to return to the Smith Football Center today. However, some of his players and staff will be serving 14-day isolation periods when he gets back.
Yurachek said he was not concerned about the potential postponement of the LSU game as of Tuesday afternoon.
“As we sit here today, no,” Yurachek said about 1:45 p.m. “But we’re in the midst of a test right now that will wind up here in the next half-hour. We’ll get those results [Wednesday], and then we have another test on Thursday.
“As we sit here today with the testing results that I know from Sunday, we’re in great shape to play football on Saturday. But … you know I wake up and say a prayer every Monday morning, every Wednesday morning and every Friday morning that we have great testing results.”
Yurachek pointed out the Razorbacks women’s soccer match scheduled for Tuesday night in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals in Orange Beach, Ala., would be the 47th contest of the fall for UA sports without a cancellation.
“That’s football, volleyball, soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, swimming, and then the basketball exhibition game scrimmage last Thursday,” Yurachek said. “After [Tuesday], we’ll have competed in 47 of 47 so far.
“That’s a testament to our student-athletes to making the right decisions most of the time.”
LSU is coming off a postponement of Saturday’s scheduled home game against Alabama due to low roster numbers for the Tigers. It was LSU’s second postponement of the season, after testing numbers at Florida bumped their game scheduled for Oct. 17 to later in the season.
The Tigers were set to return many players off quarantine on Tuesday, LSU Coach Ed Orgeron said, after testing following LSU’s 48-11 loss at Auburn on Oct. 31. That is the last time the Tigers have played.
The postponements could pit LSU against No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Florida in succession late in the year, depending on how the scheduling shakes out.
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