Another LSU football game is in jeopardy, as Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said Thursday his team needs the results of its latest coronavirus tests to ensure the Razorbacks can host LSU on Saturday.
Pittman said as of Thursday afternoon, Arkansas had enough available players to meet Southeastern Conference requirements, but the tests Arkansas took Thursday will determine whether the Razorbacks stay above the threshold. Results are expected Friday.
The SEC mandates teams have a minimum of 53 available scholarship players, including at least one quarterback, four defensive linemen and seven offensive linemen. Pittman didn't specify how many Arkansas players are out.
"We're going to play Saturday as of right now," Pittman said Thursday. "We have a test that we took today that gets back tomorrow. I'm going to just tell you the truth. We're running thin."
If Arkansas can't play, it will be the third LSU game to be postponed this season. The SEC moved LSU’s game in October against Florida to Dec. 12, the conference’s built-in open date, because of coronavirus cases within the Gators program.
LSU also had its game last weekend, scheduled against Alabama, postponed because a small number of coronavirus cases and subsequent contact tracing forced LSU below the SEC requirements. Most of LSU’s players returned this week, coach Ed Orgeron said.
Orgeron didn't know about the possibility Arkansas might have to alter the game before holding a virtual news conference Thursday night, but he understood the situation, having faced it himself.
“We wanted to play Alabama," Orgeron said. "We were way under the mark. It would've been dangerous for our team to play and according to the rules, we couldn't play. So if they can't play and it's under the mark, I understand.”
Arkansas had two staff members and at least one player test positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The results put other players and staff members in the conference’s mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Earlier this week, Arkansas didn't expect the coronavirus cases to affect the game against LSU. Pittman said Wednesday his team had adequate numbers.
Pittman, who recently recovered from the coronavirus, maintained Thursday his team sat above the threshold and wanted to play LSU, but Arkansas first needed to review its latest round of test results Friday.
"We want to play the game," Pittman said. "But you have to have adequate numbers to play the game, and we are thin. If we have a good test (Friday), then by golly we're going to play the game."
If Arkansas falls below the SEC mandates, rescheduling the game would be difficult. Though the SEC will let teams not in the conference championship play Dec. 19, LSU also wants to reschedule its home game against Alabama.
For now, LSU plans to keep its schedule intact the next two days. The Tigers have a team meeting Friday morning before they leave for Fayetteville, Arkansas, where they’re scheduled to arrive around 4:30 p.m.
Orgeron hasn’t thought about what LSU will do if Arkansas must postpone the game. If the game doesn't happen as scheduled, LSU will sit idle for the third straight week.
“If they tell us we can't play,” Orgeron said, “there's nothing we can do about it.”