On Sunday we received the news that both the University of Washington and Washington State University were dreading, but seemed inevitable.
Our annual post-Thanksgiving feast of the state’s greatest college football rivalry has been called off. At least for now.
The Apple Cup, the annual contest between the Huskies and Cougars which was scheduled for Friday, was canceled Sunday due to a coronavirus outbreak among Washington State players.
A statement released by the Pac-12 stated: “This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football policy due to Washington State not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contract tracing protocols.” Teams must have 53 scholarship players available. As of Friday WSU said it had nine players in the COVID-19 protocol, which brought the Cougars below the threshold.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) November 22, 2020
The outbreak, which according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review included Cougars starting quarterback Jayden de Laura, forced the cancellation of WSU’s game against Stanford, which was scheduled for this past Saturday. Since that announcement, which came last Friday, the state’s entire sporting community was on tenterhooks about the status of the Apple Cup. It didn’t take long for those fears to turn into reality.
This news is a huge disappointment for the state’s college football fans. In addition to being a great rivalry, the Apple Cup has been a hugely consequential game in recent years. The contests in 2016 and 2018 were winner-takes-all affairs, with the victor (Washington on both occasions) claiming the Pac-12 North championship, while the Huskies played spoiler in 2017 as their Apple Cup victory prevented the Cougars from winning the division title.
This year there was no telling how important the Apple Cup would have been in the bigger picture, since both teams have played just two games thus far. However, it contained perhaps an equal amount of intrigue as both teams, with new head coaches and new starting quarterbacks, are something of mysteries this year. And with both teams starting strong — a combined 3-1, with the loss being WSU’s valiant effort against ninth-ranked Oregon — the anticipation was growing.
It’s been a long time since the Apple Cup wasn’t played. That was in 1944, when World War II got in the way.
But all may not be lost. Even though the Pac-12’s late start meant there were no bye weeks built into the schedule, it’s still possible the schools could find a way to play. The weekend of Dec. 19, when this year’s Pac-12 Championship is scheduled, was set aside for teams not participating in the title game to play a seventh game. Therefore, if neither Washington nor Washington State is in the title game, they could face one another then. It’s also possible, though less likely, that both teams could have cancellations the same week but be available to play, providing the opportunity to schedule a replacement game against one another on short notice.
So what do you think? Will Washington and Washington State find a way to make the Apple Cup happen this year, despite Friday’s cancellation? Make your prediction here: