Skip to main content

Cal Football: 25 Words That Give Some Clarity to the Bears' Latest COVID Fiasco

City of Berkeley and UC regulations both call for 10-day periods of isolation.

Cal football’s loss of 24 players for last Saturday’s game at Arizona — a 10-3 defeat that undercuts the Bears’ recent momentum — can be at least partially explained in one 25-word sentence on the U.C. Berkeley web page that sets rules for response to positive COVID-19 cases.

Coach Justin Wilcox said Saturday the program lost players to positive tests last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Those were mandated by City of Berkeley and UC regulations, and it didn’t matter that some of those players subsequently may have had negative results on a second test.

This one sentence on the UC website governs the matter:

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate for at least 10 days per public health isolation order, regardless of vaccination status.

The regulations are severe -- more so than at other Pac-12 schools -- but they also are intended to keep people safe. And they were no secret to anyone on campus, including the athletic department.

---Cal players speak out on the COVID controversy---

What remains to be seen is how the math works going forward.

How many players — and which ones — will be eligible to play Saturday afternoon against USC, assuming they continue to be COVID-free?

Cal played Arizona without four-year starting quarterback Chase Garbers, and the offensive line was without two players in protocol and another who was injured. The defense lost key players at all three levels -- the line, linebacker and in the secondary.

It seems likely none of the players — or the coaches who were impacted — will be available for practice or meetings all week. That’s enough of a handicap, obviously.

Seemingly, a player who tested positive last Thursday or Friday would have to remain in isolation beyond this Saturday in order to meet the 10-day requirement.

Read More

But will players who tested positive on Wednesday or earlier last week be cleared to face the Trojans?

Transfer Ryan Glover, who was thrust into the starting lineup to replace Garbers, said Saturday that he was given the news on Wednesday. That suggests that Garbers tested positive no later than Wednesday.

Does that mean the Pac-12 total offense leader will be back in time for Saturday's 12:30 p.m. kickoff?

Cal officials were working to get the answers to these and other questions on Monday. Interview requests with both Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton and a City of Berkeley spokesperson went unanswered.

Wilcox meets with reporters in his weekly Tuesday media session and hopefully will have more clarity about what has happened and what’s next.

He was visibly upset when asked about the subject in his Saturday post-game Zoom call, and his response was understandable. He broadly hinted at poor communication between the city and campus but this is Year 2 of the pandemic and certainly all parties have had time to create more efficient lines of communication.

We see reports on social media that parents of players are angry, and that reaction is also understandable. This has to be beyond maddening for families.

None of this will benefit Cal’s recruiting, which already has taken a hit this fall because of the Bears’ 3-6 record, which included a 1-5 start.

Stay tuned because there are chapters still be written in this sad saga.

Cover photo of Cal coach Justin Wilcox

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo