Rice Football did not play their scheduled game against UTEP on Saturday, another snag in a season full of challenges off the field.
At 1:30 p.m. Mike Bloomgren sat in his office with a Zoom screen pulled up. The virtual press conference wasn’t a new development — he’d done that too many times to count since the 2020 season began — the time of the call was the unfortunate wrinkle.
When Bloomgren woke up on Saturday morning, he was expecting to be playing a football game at that time. UTEP had arrived from El Paso. Rice ate their normal pre-game meal. Preparations were in place for Rice football to play. Then poof. No game.
Around 12:20 p.m., supposedly 20 minutes after its initial start time, positive tests and contact tracing at UTEP forced the cancelation of the game. An hour later Bloomgren was back in front of the mic rather than making halftime adjustments with his team.
“There’s a lot of flux going on,” Bloomgren said. “The uncertainty has been tough for everybody in 2020.” An understatement if there ever was one.
30 of 84 Conference USA games have been postponed this season. The Rice game was the 100th FBS game postponed this year.
Prior to 2020, Bloomgren can remember just one in-season cancelation in his entire coaching career. That came in 2001 in the wake of 9/11, a game against Southern Miss when he was on staff at Alabama was canceled. Since then, he’s played the game on his schedule. Until this year, when he’s had to have that uncomfortable conversation with his team three times in the last four weeks.
“We had our normal morning,” Bloomgren said, before then running through the play by play of another postponement.
What comes next, not even Bloomgren knows. Right now Rice football is scheduled to fly to West Virginia to play Marshall. Bloomgren mentioned continued dialogue in the conference office about replacing that game with a West opponent.
Rather than fly East, rescheduling a previously postponed contest with UTSA is on the table. Bloomgren also mentioned moving up the Dec. 12 contest with UAB, which hasn’t played a game in more than a month. Further clarification is expected from the league office this weekend.
Amidst the chaos, Bloomgren remains resolute on one thing: “Whoever we get the opportunity to line up for next Saturday, we will be thankful for that opportunity,” he said. At this rate, a football game against anyone would be a welcome development.