Charlotte-UNC game canceled due to COVID-19

Another Week 3 college football game has been wiped off the slate. 

Charlotte announced Thursday that its game against North Carolina, scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, has been canceled due to the impact of COVID-19 on its offensive line group. More specifically, the university said that its contact tracing protocols have placed “several members of the offensive line” into quarantine, “effectively depleting that unit.”

Three Charlotte football players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past two weeks, the school said, but those who came into contact with the infected individuals are required “by university contact tracers” to quarantine for 14 days. The players who tested positive for the virus are in isolation. 

Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill said the 49ers just could not play the game safely with such low numbers available along the offensive line. And because the two teams do not have any common open dates, the game will not be rescheduled in 2020. 

"We're extremely disappointed to have to cancel our game at North Carolina. While I know our team is heartbroken, due to the number of players in quarantine, we could not safely play,” Hill said. “We very much appreciate the University of North Carolina having scheduled this game with us. Unfortunately, we do not currently share any common open dates to reschedule."

Charlotte said it has administered a total of 3,150 tests to athletes, coaches and staff since June 10 with 20 coming back positive. The most recent round of testing was on Monday with just one of 200 returning positive. 

Despite the low number of positives, the issues with contact tracing ultimately resulted in the Charlotte administration opting to call off the game. The availability of daily rapid testing — a key in the Big Ten’s return — is expected to curtail contact tracing among college football programs.

Charlotte's game against North Carolina on Saturday has been canceled. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)

Fifth game wiped off Week 3 schedule

The Charlotte vs. UNC game is the fifth game scheduled for the coming weekend to either be postponed or outright canceled. The other four are Virginia at Virginia Tech, BYU at Army, Memphis at Houston and Central Arkansas at Arkansas State. In all, 14 games involving FBS teams have either been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 issues. 

The ACC is one of two Power Five conferences that is playing non-conference games this season. The conference, back on July 29, set an 11-game scheduling format with 10 conference games and one non-conference game. There were two stipulations for the non-conference game: it must be played “in the home state” of the ACC school, and the non-conference opponent “must meet the medical protocol requirements as agreed upon by the ACC.”

Like all ACC teams, UNC has two open weeks built into its schedule this season. UNC’s two open weekends are Sept. 26 — next weekend — and Nov. 21. UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the school is “looking at opportunities to add an opponent on Saturday, Sept. 26.” As of now, North Carolina’s next scheduled game is on the road against Boston College on Oct. 3.

“This is certainly disappointing, especially for the student-athletes on both teams who had prepared hard for this game and were really looking forward to this matchup,” Cunningham said. “We knew when we decided to play football in this environment that cancellations would be a possibility, because the health and safety of our teams and community is our priority.”

Charlotte, which lost its season opener to Appalachian State, 35-20, is scheduled to play Georgia State next Saturday, Sept. 26, in its home opener. The school said that the cancellation of the UNC game “does not impact the status” of the Georgia State game. 

North Carolina is 1-0, having opened its season with a 31-6 win over Syracuse at home last week.

“We’re disappointed we won’t have a chance to play this weekend, but completely understand and appreciate Charlotte’s transparency,” UNC head coach Mack Brown said. “We were looking forward to competing against Coach [Will] Healy’s group. As you know, we’re good friends so I hate this for him and his team. Hopefully, everyone affected is OK and we wish them the best as they move forward through the season.”

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