Feeling rejuvenated last weekend, Cal traveled to play Washington State. Everyone in the traveling party was tested before the flight, then again after dinner the night before the game, then again at the hotel on the morning of the game.
The team loaded into six buses, twice as many as usual to obey social-distancing guidelines. They were driving to the stadium when Athletic Director Jim Knowlton got a text message: Please come back into the hotel.
A player had tested positive. Cal’s medical officials did their work, tracing the players’ contacts.
Fairly quickly, it was determined that there would be no game. It was less than two hours before kickoff. Washington State was already warming up at the stadium.
Knowlton contacted the Pac-12. He called Cal’s chancellor. He looked out the window.
“Our entire football team, offense versus defense, is in this snowball fight, and they are having the best time,” Knowlton said. “And I thought, we just gave them heartbreaking news a half an hour ago. It just shows the resiliency of kids, the camaraderie that sports brings to teams, and all the second- and third-order effects.”
Once Cal was home in California, this weekend’s planned game against 0-5 Arizona was called off, too. Both teams had virus-isolation issues. And, really, what was the point?
It was a question that reasonably might have been asked all along.
“I absolutely think it was worth it,” Knowlton said of Cal’s four-game football season. “Being part of a team is special, the life lessons you learn are special, and what we were able to provide our young men during an abbreviated season was a little bit of special.”