COVID-19 challenges continue to plague Baylor football, athletic department

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor, Video by George Schroeder | Broadcast Reporter

Baylor athletics is experiencing an outbreak.

The athletics department is now monitoring 44 cases across all sports (including primary contacts), according to the COVID-19 test report which was updated Monday. There are 29 new cases since the Oct. 5 report, all of which are active symptomatic cases. The department reports 32 active cases.

As of Oct. 5, the Baylor athletic department was monitoring a total of 18 cases across all sports programs, which included primary contacts. Ten of those cases were active and six of those active cases were symptomatic. Baylor halted all football activities three days later on Oct. 8 when the possibility of an outbreak first emerged.

After having both non-conference games against Louisiana Tech and Houston postponed due to COVID-19, the Bears postponed their Homecoming matchup with No. 7 Oklahoma State which was slated for this Saturday at McLane Stadium. Baylor Head Coach Dave Aranda said although the team is disappointed to have to postpone another game, they understand the importance of taking precautions.

“For as disappointed and frustrated as we all feel, I’m encouraged by just the determination that I’m seeing,” Aranda said. “We’re taking it day by day right now.”

The game was rescheduled for Dec. 12 in Waco, with the conference championship date still being considered for either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 depending on which teams are in contention for the title. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, whose seventh-ranked Cowboys are the only Big 12 team currently in the top-10, said there’s nothing that can be done about this week’s game and the best thing to do is move on to what’s next.

“Nothing surprises us anymore with this year, so you just kind of roll with the punches,” Gundy said. “When we started this, we felt like we could run into a game or two where there could be COVID issues on our team or another team. You know, we’re working on Baylor for a week. You take that and put that in the filing cabinet and open up on Iowa State.”

Aranda said the department’s health and wellness team, as well as a specialist group put together by the Big 12, is determining whether the outbreak could have originated during the trip back from West Virginia last week or if there were other factors in play.

“They’re looking at the trip that we were just on,” Aranda said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily finalized yet. I think that’s kind of what was trending. I think once they finish up that study, then we’ll be able to communicate all of it. But for sure, that was a definite area to focus on.”

Baylor had very little cases come up during the summer and during fall camp and are now experiencing more COVID-19 related issues than other teams that dealt with outbreaks before the season started. When asked if maybe it would have been better to deal with these issues over the summer, Aranda said the only thing they’re concerned about is making sure everyone is healthy.

“Our main approach has always been the health and safety of our players, and I’m really proud of the effort and the results that went into the summertime, and really felt good going into the season of where we were in terms of best practices,” Aranda said. “We have been hit multiple times here since the season started … We’ve been fighting on a fair amount of fronts. So, I think to try to keep our kids healthy and to try to keep them out of harm’s way in terms of endangering them or their loved ones is always going to be our No. 1 focus.”

With an extra bye week for both teams, Baylor will head down to Austin to face Texas on Oct. 24 while Oklahoma State will take on No. 20 Iowa State. The Bears currently sit in fifth place on the Big 12 football standings with a 1-1 record, with a win against Kansas and a loss to West Virginia.

While the Homecoming game has been pushed back, all other Homecoming activities will continue as scheduled this week.