College football on Wednesday got a bracing glimpse of what could become routine this season: a game rescheduled because of coronavirus cases within an athletic program.
North Carolina State and Virginia Tech, who were to play their Atlantic Coast Conference game on Sept. 12, said Wednesday that the matchup had been delayed by two weeks, until Sept. 26, because of a cluster of virus cases within N.C. State’s athletic department.
“There’s no blueprint for what we’re all trying to navigate and we are grateful for everyone’s collaboration to make this work,” Boo Corrigan, N.C. State’s athletic director, said in a statement.
N.C. State, which is in Raleigh, announced Monday that it had paused athletic activities because of what it described as “an identified cluster within its programs.” But the pause, announced less than three weeks before what was to be the start of the Wolfpack’s season, immediately stirred questions of whether the team would be ready to play at Virginia Tech, and whether students would be at greater risk for injury because of the suspension of preseason workouts.
Dave Doeren, N.C. State’s coach, hinted at those worries in a statement on Wednesday, when he described the postponement of the Virginia Tech game as offering “our team and staff the time needed to prepare and reacclimate after pausing our practices.”
In a statement, Virginia Tech called the postponement a “mutual decision.”
A.C.C. teams hope to play 11-game schedules this season, with each school planning 10 conference matchups and a game against a nonconference opponent. The first game involving an A.C.C. team, Alabama-Birmingham at Miami, is scheduled for Sept. 10.
In recent weeks, conference officials have emphasized the flexibility of this season’s schedule, which includes two open dates for each team, saying that it gives them latitude to change plans should health conditions warrant.
The A.C.C. is one of six Football Bowl Subdivision leagues planning games for this fall. Four conferences, including the Big Ten and the Pac-12, have already announced that their football teams will not compete until at least 2021.