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College football: Houston-North Texas game postponed due to coronavirus

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The Houston-North Texas football game set for Saturday has been postponed because of the coronavirus.

North Texas said in a statement Wednesday that four positive COVID-19 tests this week -- along with contact tracing of those tests -- left the program unable to field a team for the matchup against Houston.

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Both schools are working to find a date to reschedule the game.

"We knew that there would be challenges with COVID-19 this season and we were taking precautions to hopefully avoid this situation," North Texas director of athletics Wren Baker said. "Our student-athlete health and safety is the priority in every decision we make and that is what this difficult decision is based on. We are hopeful we can resume safe activities soon."

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The postponement marks the fourth season opener that Houston has been unable to play because of the coronavirus. The Cougars previously had opening games against Rice, Memphis and Baylor postponed or canceled. In all four instances, Houston's opponents experienced virus-related issues that didn't allow them to play.

"We understand this COVID-related decision North Texas has made to not play Saturday's game and appreciate the consistent dialogue with our program by UNT athletics director Wren Baker, his administration and medical staff during this week," Houston vice president for athletics Chris Pezman said in a statement Wednesday.

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"I am disappointed for our student-athletes who have continued to focus on competing this season and were ready to play this Saturday. We will continue to work to adjust our schedule with the hopes of playing as soon as we can."

Meanwhile, Arkansas State was forced to postpone its game against Tulsa on Saturday because the program didn't have enough players at a specific position group to safely compete.

"This is a result of a combination of positive tests on Monday and other players still displaying symptoms, as well as having time to safely re-acclimate prior to the game," Arkansas State athletics director Terry Mohajir said in a statement. "This decision is based on the ability to safely field a two-deep at the position group rather than the total number of players unavailable.

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"We are taking all precautions as our student health and safety remains our first and foremost priority."

Arkansas State said it is working with Tulsa to reschedule the game. The school also noted that it would be able to play its Oct. 3 game against Coastal Carolina.

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Also Wednesday, South Florida postponed its matchup against Florida Atlantic on Saturday because of concerns about possible coronavirus spread among players and staff members. Earlier in the day, USF paused all on-field football activities pending the results of testing and contact tracing.

"With the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff as well as mitigating the spread of the virus our primary concern, given the outbreak among team members of our most recent opponent and subsequent contact tracing within our team, postponement of this Saturday's game at FAU is the right thing to do," USF vice president of athletics Michael Kelly said in a statement.

The decision came a day after Notre Dame postponed its upcoming game against Wake Forest because of a series of positive test results. The Fighting Irish beat South Florida 52-0 last week but experienced a COVID-19 outbreak following the game.

Seven Notre Dame players tested positive and, combined with testing results from the previous week, 13 individuals are currently in isolation -- with 10 in quarantine. Those positive results led Notre Dame to move its game against Wake Forest from this weekend to Dec. 12.

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