BUFFALO, N.Y. – The undefeated Buffalo Bulls’ bid to clinch the Mid-American Conference East Division title were placed on hold on Friday before they even had a chance to play a down.
Four hours into their trip to play Ohio, Buffalo turned its buses around upon being informed its game on Saturday was canceled and declared a no contest because the Bobcats’ roster was depleted as a result of players testing positive for COVID-19.
The cancelation left Buffalo (4-0) in limbo, waiting for the conference to determine whether the school has won the division title and a berth in the MAC championship game in Detroit on Dec. 18.
Buffalo would’ve clinched the berth with a win over Ohio (2-1). With only one game left in the regular season, the Bulls have run out of division rivals who can mathematically beat them in the standings.
Athletic director Mark Alnutt said Buffalo “has a great case to make” to be division champions, but added he likely won’t get an official ruling from the conference until early next week.
“There’s disappointment, there’s also frustration on our end,” Alnutt said. He also praised his football program for being responsible in having had just one player and two student staff members test positive out of 5,155 COVID-19 tests conducted since October.
Coach Lance Leipold called the situation “fluid,” but questioned how the MAC can rule any differently given it announced the game being canceled rather than postponed.
Messages left with two MAC officials were not returned.
It’s unclear what options the conference has left open in squeezing additional games into an already condensed season with each school limited to a six-gamed schedule.
Ohio already had its game against Miami, Ohio, on Nov. 17 canceled due to COVID-19.
Second-place Kent State, at 3-1, is also down to having one game remaining after its game at Miami, Ohio, on Saturday was also canceled. Buffalo has the tie-reaking edge over Kent State after a 70-41 win over the Flashes last weekend in a game Bulls running back Jaret Patterson had 409 yards rushing and scored eight touchdowns.
Buffalo, which attracted 56 votes in last week's Associated Press college football poll, is scheduled to close its season hosting Akron (0-4) on Dec. 12.
Leipold summed up his disappointment over the aborted trip to Athens, Ohio, by noting he intended to inform his players of the cancelation at a highway rest stop. He instead had to wait after learning the bathrooms at the stop were closed.
Leipold then had the five-bus caravan turn back toward Buffalo, before breaking the news at the next rest stop.
“We couldn’t catch a break for anything,” Leipold said.
“Everything these young men have gone through since March, I don’t think anything overly surprises them,” he added. “But I’m sure it takes its toll. And that’s why we can keep going and get that opportunity to play Akron, and hopefully play two more after that.”
Leipold was referring to the MAC championship game and the potential of earning a postseason bowl berth.
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