The Fort Lewis College football team was forced Friday to cancel Saturday’s home game against Western Colorado University because of COVID-19 issues.
Earlier in the week, the Skyhawks had an outbreak with four players who tested positive. More issues were revealed when further test results came back Friday. San Juan Basin Public Health said eight players have now tested positive. No coaches have had a positive case.
Western Colorado was cleared to play when it got its test results back Thursday night.
“Disappointed,” was the only comment FLC first-year head coach Darrius G. Smith had Friday while expressing his frustration. Smith was hired in February of 2020, one month before the start of the pandemic. His first spring practices would be canceled along with the fall season, and he has had limited chances to evaluate his players and put a product on the field since his hiring.
FLC athletic director Brandon Leimbach said it wasn’t only the positive tests that led to the cancellation but also the volume of athletes in quarantine for close contact to players who did test positive.
“The last couple of weeks, it just became a combination of positive cases and having several student-athletes in quarantine that made the game unplayable based on COVID procedures and policies through San Juan Basin Public Health,” Leimbach said. “I feel terrible for our student-athletes who have worked so hard all year for a home contest and for it to get canceled in the 11th hour due to COVID.”
The game, which was scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, was slated to be the lone home game of the spring season for FLC. The fall season was canceled because of the pandemic.
The Skyhawks scheduled three spring games, including a March 27 trip to Dixie State in St. George, Utah. FLC lost that game 60-0 to the Division I opponent, which paid FLC $20,000 to make the trip.
FLC also was scheduled to visit Adams State University on April 24, but the Grizzlies canceled that game. FLC was able to add New Mexico Highlands to the schedule for 5 p.m. April 23. Smith said he is unsure as of now if the Skyhawks will be able to make that road trip next week.
“We are going to assess early next week based on student-athletes in quarantine and current positive cases,” Leimbach said.
FLC began selling tickets to Saturday’s game online Thursday. Anyone who purchased a ticket will receive a refund through Primo Ticketing. Leimbach estimated that pre-sold tickets and those with athletics passes planning to attend totaled 200 people.
“As COVID has taught us, there are no guarantees,” Leimbach said. “Our No. 1 goal is to protect our campus, families and our opponents. Our focus now shifts toward ending the semester strong and assuring all graduating seniors – students and student-athletes alike – that they get to the finish line to enjoy their graduation ceremony in May.”