Ohio at Kent State, and perhaps the Bobcats’ season, is canceled

The 2020 Ohio University football season may have ended Tuesday afternoon in the most fitting manner for this mangled, disjointed year – with a Tweet.

The Mid-American Conference announced that Ohio’s scheduled game at Kent State, on Saturday at Dix Stadium, was canceled and would be declared a no contest. It was the regular-season finale for both programs. It will not be rescheduled.

Ohio running back De’Montre Tuggle breaks free for a touchdown against Bowling Green on Nov. 28, 2020 at Peden Stadium. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics

“The Ohio University at Kent State University football game on Saturday, December 12 has been canceled due to roster issues with the Kent State football team related to positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent contact tracing,” the MAC said in a release.

It was the third game this season, in an abbreviated six-game slate, to be canceled for the Bobcats (2-1). Ohio — citing decimated position groups because of COVID-19 tests, contact tracing and injuries — was the side which forced cancelations of games on Nov. 17 (at Miami) and on Saturday, Dec. 5 (vs. Buffalo).

It was the second straight game canceled for both programs. Kent State (3-1) also had roster issues that forced the cancelation of a Saturday, Dec. 5 game with Miami. To this point, four MAC games have been canceled this season.

Ohio Athletics has not issued any kind of follow up statement to Tuesday’s announcement, and only independently addressed last weekend’s cancelation with Buffalo during the department’s own broadcast of ‘The Frank Solich Show’ on Monday.

Solich’s game-week press conference, originally set for Monday, was moved to Tuesday of this week and then pushed back to Thursday. After Tuesday’s announcement, it’s unclear if Solich would be available for questions this week at all.

“The Kent State University football game scheduled for Dec. 12 vs. Ohio University at Dix Stadium will not be played due to COVID-19 concerns. The decision to not play the game was made in consultation with university leaders and medical professionals, with the safety and well-being of our student-athletes and staff as our first priority,” Kent State said in a release on Wednesday.

Both Solich and Ohio athletics director Julie Cromer said Monday the game would be “possible” but were cautious in displaying confidence the Kent State game would be played. Both cited projected improvements in the state of the Ohio roster this week as reason to believe Ohio could play at Kent State.

Cromer said Ohio had no additional positive tests within the department through Sunday testing. Cromer, speaking on Monday evening, also said Ohio would be in consultation with the MAC and Kent State on Tuesday.

“As far as we stand now, a game is still possible from our perspective,” Cromer said.

Of course, Ohio was in a similar situation a week ago. The Bobcats practiced normally through last Thursday, but still canceled on Buffalo on Friday after the Bulls had already departed via bus for a 7-hour (one way) trip.

“Early in the week things looked really good…end of the week not so good,” Cromer said.

Solich, speaking on the radio show on Monday, was guarded when asked about the prospects of playing at Kent State.

“It’s all a day-by-day situation,” the coach said. “We have more tests to go through. They have more tests to go through.

“We’ll see how that all plays out.”

Neither Cromer nor Solich addressed the prosect of any more games in 2020 past the regular-season finale. As of Tuesday morning, the MAC still had not acknowledged Buffalo (4-0) as the MAC East Division champion. The Bulls are the only undefeated team left in the league. The MAC Championship Game is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 18 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Without the MAC making the Bulls’ title official, it appears the East’s spot in the title game is undecided. Only Buffalo (3-0) and Ohio (2-0) have undefeated marks in East Division-only games this season. Neither Cromer, nor Solich — on Monday — mentioned the MAC title game as a possibility. Buffalo is scheduled to host Akron (1-4) on Saturday.

When asked about the possibility of playing in a bowl game, Cromer said it would depend on end-of-season evaluations from interested bowl partners but didn’t sound like it was expected.

“We’re really focused on this week and getting our roster back and healthy and seeing what we can do on Saturday if we get the opportunity to play,” she said.

Half of Ohio’s 2020 season was canceled because of roster issues due in large part to COVID-19 protocols. The Bobcats have played one game (Nov. 28 vs. Bowling Green) in the last month. Starting quarterback Kurtis Rourke has seen his season ended already by a shoulder injury.

Ohio’s players, staff and coaches have gone to exceptional lengths to try to play this season, but it appears this could be the end of the 2020 campaign.

With uncertainty dogging the sport at every turn – the hallowed Michigan-Ohio State game was also canceled Wednesday for example – it’s hard to envision the Bobcats extending the season any further for a bowl season that will be sure to limited in scope and may not extend an invite in any case.

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