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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Bears optimistic about playing Big 12 opener

After Baylor's first two attempts at opening the 2020 football season were wiped out by COVID-19, the Bears are hopeful for Saturday.

WACO, Texas — Baylor hopes its third attempt to start the 2020 football season finally gets going Saturday after they were forced to postpone its Sept. 12 game in Waco and the Sept. 19 game against Houston due to COVID-19.

Baylor Athletic Director Mack Rhoades confirmed Monday that the Bears had a position group fall below the Big 12 Conferences position-specific coronavirus game-cancellation thresholds. Ahead of its revised 2020 season, the Big 12 set its thresholds at 53 overall players with position thresholds at the offensive line (7), interior defensive line (4) and quarterback (1).

Rhoades said although Baylor wasn't required to postpone or cancel because it fell under the threshold, it didn't feel it was safe for the athletes not forced to miss the game to play under those thresholds.

When the news broke that Baylor postponed its game against Houston, there were unconfirmed reports that one of the players who was forced to miss the game tested negative for COVID-19 "at least" five times in the span of 12 days. Rhoades said under current Big 12 guidelines, there is no way to test to get back onto the roster.

"Right now, there is no mechanism to test out of that," Rhoades said. "That's a hard-fast rule. Now, that's the conversation everybody's having."

Neither Rhoades nor Head Coach Dave Aranda elaborated on which of the three-position groups it was that went under the threshold.

Baylor, in accordance with Big 12 testing protocols, tests its athletes for COVID-19 three times each week. Those tests happen on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Rhoades said Thursday, they found out they, "Had a problem on our hands."

"I felt embarrassed," Aranda said. "I started looking at what I could have done better. I felt like I let our guys down."

Rhoades said it was roughly 50-50 on players forced to miss the game due to a positive test and players forced to miss the game due to contact tracing.

However, between players who returned from COVID-19 protocols and other injuries, Aranda said he's optimistic Baylor will be able to play its currently scheduled Big 12 opener Saturday night in Waco.

While that preparation has taken quite possibly the strangest path to open a college football season, Aranda said he's immensely proud of his team.

"We don't blink," Aranda said. "I think leadership of the team, character of the team, I think all of that is right there for everyone to feel, you feel that. We had a practice (Sunday), and there was great energy, the meetings were great, I'm continually impressed with this team."

Baylor announced just three new cases of COVID-19  Monday in its athletic department. It also said it is still monitoring 18 cases, which includes its four total active coronavirus cases and the mandatory contact tracing.

Nonetheless, the optimism remains in Waco that at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Kansas and Baylor will finally kick off the 2020 college football season in Central Texas at McLane Stadium.

"I'm looking forward to finally be on the sideline with this team on a Saturday," Aranda said.

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