NORMAN- The Oklahoma Sooners’ season opener was touch and go, but the Big 12’s partnership to provide COVID-19 rapid tests expedited the decision to play.
Ahead of the opening weekend for the conference, the Big 12 announced a partnership between the conference and Virtual Care for Families, providing teams with access to tests which can provide results in as little as 15 minutes.
Before the rapid tests were available, it could take most of the day for the results of a round of COVID-19 testing to become available, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said.
“It was helpful,” Riley said of the rapid tests. “It probably took in the neighborhood of about two hours to have all the results.”
The time saved helped the Sooners communicate if the game would go forward as scheduled with the Missouri State Bears.
“Getting those results quickly and being able to make a call honestly before Missouri State even left the parking lot,” Riley said.
“The one thing we didn’t want to do if at all possible was, you know, they’re on their way here to Norman and then we’ve got a, you know, postpone the game.”
While the availability of the rapid tests will help teams decide on the status of their games, for now it appears it will not help clear players from contact tracing.
Currently, if a player has come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, they are placed into a 14-day quarantine.
“Right now with the state, CDC regulations and all of that, if somebody is nailed as a contact trace, whether it’s the nose test, whether it’s the rapid test, any of those it’s 14 days. And that’s final,” Riley said.
“Barring something unforeseen I don’t expect that to change within the league at all.”
Riley went further to say he was unsure if even state guidelines allowed a player to be cleared of contract tracing after 10 days and two negative tests he is unsure if the conference would amend the rules.
“I know the league wants to keep it fair across the board which makes a lot of sense,” he said.
Not only is the depleted roster tough on the team during the game, but it takes a toll on the guys who are unavailable to play.
“”Everybody’s worked hard to get to that point and to not be able play in a game is a devastating thing,” Riley said.
With the stakes for each testing window so high, there’s an extra added stress said redshirt junior H-back Jeremiah Hall.
“It can be stressful to a certain extent, especially when you see your teammates missing time and that impacts them and then it impacts the team as well as yourself,” Hall said. “It’s a little bit nerve wracking.”
“As long as you do the right thing, then you’re good most of the time,” he said.
The Sooners head into the bye week hoping to heal up, as they had double digit players unavailable against Missouri State.
“It’s not like you’re gonna get all the guys back on one day, whether it’s an injury or whether it’s COVID related,” Riley said.
“You’re just gonna wake up one day and most days you’re gonna have a few guys back and a few guys gone. Then you wake up and do it again the next day.”
Featured photo courtesy of Josh Gateley.