A Cal football season that barely got started is now finished.
The Pac-12 Conference announced Sunday evening that the Bears’ tentatively scheduled season finale against Arizona has been canceled.
A strange and unsatisfying Cal season is mercifully over.
The conference earlier in the day announced matchups for next week’s final regular-season games. One day after Cal's game at Washington State was canceled just 90 minutes before kickoff, the Arizona vs. Cal was the only game revealed Sunday that did not include a date, time or TV information because both programs were dealing with COVID-19 issues.
The Pac-12’s statement canceling the game said neither team would have the minimum number of players available. The game is designated as a no-contest.
"Our heart goes out to all the student-athletes who put in so much preparation and time to play the game they love,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said in a statement. “We are disappointed that we are not able to host Arizona, but I am proud of our team and what we have been able to accomplish under difficult and unprecedented circumstances this season.
“Providing a safe environment has been at the top of our priority list throughout the season, and I'd like to thank everyone who helped us put together a plan to practice and play within health guidelines.”
Cal was picked to finish second in the Pac-12 North, but wound up playing just four games.
The Bears finished with a 1-3 record.
“I'd also like to recognize our seniors for their hard work, dedication and leadership throughout their Cal careers. They truly are a special group of student-athletes who have helped build our program,” Wilcox continued in his statement. “We have a bright future ahead of us, and we are looking forward to preparing for 2021.”
The Bears are scheduled to open the 2021 season at home against Nevada on Sept. 4.
One off-season question looming is whether any of this year’s seniors will choose to take advantage of the NCAA’s one-time option of repeating their senior seasons.
Seniors include defensive backs Camryn Bynum, Elijah Hicks and Josh Drayden, linebackers Kuony Deng and Cameron Goode, defensive end Zeandae Johnson, offensive linemen Jake Curhan, Michael Saffell and Valentino Daltoso, wide receivers Kekoa Crawford and Trevon Clark, running back Marcel Dancy and backup quarterback Devon Modster.
The Bears were coming off an 8-5 season and had high hopes to improve upon that this year. When the COVID-19 pandemic persisted into the fall the Pac-12 canceled the season, then was reinstated with a seven-game, conference-only schedule.
Things went awry from the start, throughout most of the conference but especially at Cal. Despite all their efforts to be cautious and safe, the Bears lost their entire defensive line to COVID protocols when one player tested positive, prompting cancellation of the season-opening game vs. Washington.
A week later, Arizona State bowed out due to a an outbreak on their team, and Cal pivoted quickly to face UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Sunday. The Bears lost 34-10.
Cal’s defensive line returned a week later, but three offensive linemen were among at least five players forced into two weeks of quarantine prior to the Week 3 game against Oregon State.
The Bears played better but lost mistake-plagued games to the Beavers and Stanford by a combined margin of four points, falling to 0-3.
Cal was as close to whole as it was all season two weeks ago against Oregon, and upset the conference-favorite Ducks 21-17.
Then came this weekend, when a positive test by a Cal player just hours before Saturday’s game at Washington State forced more players into quarantine after contact tracing.
So the Bears played four games, had four canceled (one rescheduled against a different opponent), and never got a whiff of the season they dreamed about.
Things were no doubt worst still for Arizona, which finished 0-5 after a 70-7 loss to rival Arizona State on Friday. One day later, coach Kevin Sumlin was fired.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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