Last season, the Pac-12 played a truncated schedule featuring multiple canceled games due to COVID-19.
Until this week, the 2021 Pac-12 football schedule had played out without any interruptions.
But this Saturday’s USC-California game has been postponed because of COVID-19 cases among the Golden Bears after the league granted Cal’s request to avoid a forfeit.
It marks the first COVID 19-related postponement of the season among Power Five teams.
The USC-Cal game has been rescheduled for Dec. 4 — the day after the Pac-12 championship game.
Both Cal (3-6, 2-4) and USC (4-5, 3-4) are out of the race to win their respective Pac-12 division titles.
Utah, which leads the South Division, and Oregon, which leads the North Division, appear to be on a collision course to meet in the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas on Dec. 3.
“It was a difficult decision to postpone this Saturday’s game against USC,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “We know how important every one of our games is to our student-athletes, especially our seniors who have been incredible representatives of the program, but it was the right thing to do.
“Due to additional impact on specific position groups, we have decided to postpone Saturday’s game. We have had multiple COVID-19 positives within our program, and we are taking every step we can to mitigate the spread and protect the greater community.”
The Trojans didn’t entertain the possibility of accepting a forfeit win, though they need more victories to secure bowl eligibility.
“For them to not get to play would just be a crime,” USC interim coach Donte Williams said of Cal. “We want to play the game, and a forfeit is not the way to go and not the way you want to qualify for a bowl game. Our whole thing is fighting on and competing.”
Before playing Cal, USC will take on archrival UCLA on Nov. 20 and BYU on Nov. 27.
Last week, the Bears had to play without 24 players and five assistant coaches due to COVID-19 cases. Cal fell 10-3 at Arizona, snapping the Wildcats’ 20-game losing streak.