SEATTLE — The Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State scheduled for Friday was canceled Sunday due to the Cougars not having enough scholarship players available because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing.
The cancellation raises the possibility that the in-state rivals will not play for the first time since 1944, although both schools say they are hopeful to reschedule if an open date presents itself.
“After assessing the overall status of our football program, we remain under the minimum threshold of 53 available scholarship student-athletes and cannot forecast a scenario that allows us to reach that threshold by the end of the week,” Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said.
The Pac-12 Conference announced the cancelation and per policy, the game will be declared a no-contest. But there could be potential options for playing the rivalry matchup at the end of the season should neither team end up in the Pac-12 championship game.
Both Chun and Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen said they will prioritize playing the rivalry game should there be an opportunity.
“This is one of the best rivalries in college sports and every year we circle this game at the start of the season,” Cohen said. “We will work with Pac-12 to prioritize this game and look into any opportunities to play it should there be an open date for both schools down the road.”
This will be the second straight week the Cougars will not play and the second time this season the Huskies have lost a game because of coronavirus concerns with their opponent.
Washington State had its game at Stanford on Saturday canceled after four Cougars players landed in COVID-19 protocol on Friday. That put nine total players in the protocol as of Friday and combined with injuries dropped Washington State below the Pac-12 mandate of having 53 scholarship players available.
The Cougars are 1-1. Their last game was a 43-29 loss to Oregon on Nov. 14.
Washington had its season opener at California canceled due to coronavirus issues with the Golden Bears. The Huskies — who beat Arizona 44-27 on Saturday to improve to 2-0 — are expected to be aggressive in trying to find a replacement game for this week.
The most logical option from a competitive and regional standpoint would be No. 8 BYU, which does not have another game scheduled until Dec. 12 against San Diego State.
The Aztecs could potentially be an option for Washington as well after their game against Fresno State scheduled for this week was also canceled on Sunday. Last week the Pac-12 approved nonconference games should the opponent meet requirements laid out by the conference including following Pac-12 testing and COVID-19 protocols.
As of now, Washington State’s next game is scheduled for Dec. 4 at Southern California, while Washington is scheduled to host Stanford on Dec. 5.
“It’s gut-wrenching and disappointing for our student-athletes and coaches as well as those at UW,” Chun said. “As we work through the remainder of our schedule, we will continue to communicate with the Pac-12 Conference and UW if any scenario would emerge that would allow us to reschedule the game at a later point in the season.”