Saint Louis U. High has had to cancel its plans for tonight’s football game and adjust the plans for Freshman Running of the Bills, after their scheduled opponent, Roosevelt High School, canceled the game on Wednesday morning following a Covid outbreak at the school.
Roosevelt did not have precise contact tracing for Covid spread, so when nine students tested positive, they had to send everyone home. Their announcement that the football team couldn’t play Friday sent SLUH scrambling to find an opponent.
“If this was 2018, I don't know what kind of options you have—it's Wednesday, the game is set for Friday,” said Athletic Director Chris Muskopf. “But we’re in a pandemic, and we're not the only school in the St. Louis area, in the state, the midwest, however far you want to expand it, to have lost an opponent for this Friday night's game. So, are there options? Yes.”
The Running of the Bills added extra pressure on Muskopf and the Athletic Department to attempt to find another school to play. Ideally, they wanted to avoid postponing such an important part of SLUH initiation.
“You at least want to look, and especially given what this weekend entails for our community with Running of the Bills and other events happening, we want to try to do everything we can to find an opponent,” said Muskopf.
Upon the announcement of Roosevelt’s cancellation, the school looked into a multitude of possible solutions to try and keep Running of the Bills on schedule. Ultimately, they decided to use tonight’s varsity soccer game against Glendale in place of the football game. The soccer game was pushed back two hours to accommodate the mass of freshman runners and parents. The move, however, was not the first choice of the administration.
“We came very close today to locking in a team from Chicago. It just fell apart, it was too late, and we just couldn't make it happen. It's a lot of challenges here and a lot of challenges in Chicago,” said principal Fr. Ian Gibbons SJ.
SLUH committees also considered a team from Springfield but that, too, fell through. Many also suggested postponing Running of the Bills for a later date, such as next week's football game against Chaminade. As Gibbons considered that option, however, it became clear that this week was the only chance to hold the event.
“We can't do it next week because of the other programs that are going to be happening that are already set,” he said. “You push things back, they bump into other pieces and we simply don't have the room and the stands. We don't have the capacity to be able to do Running of the Bills for that.”
The soccer game will be played on the football field instead of the soccer stadium to allow greater crowd capacity. SLUH’s Pep Band, which is normally reserved for football games, will also play at the event. Freshman Fun Day is still scheduled to take place with no changes. Even though the sport is different, freshmen can still expect an atmosphere very similar to a football game.
As for the football team, cancelling a game will have significant effects on the season. Since the team doesn’t play very many games each year, it was a sacrifice to lose one.
“It's different from sport to sport,” said Muskopf. “If you're playing 30 baseball games and you lose one opponent because of Covid, it’s a different environment than if you're playing nine football games and you lose an opponent because of Covid. So, you know, everybody knew this was a potential.”
This situation also marks the first time a sporting event at SLUH has had to be cancelled due to Covid, which is a testament to the work of the SLUH administration and SLUH athletes.
“We were pretty lucky last year,” noted Muskopf. “We were pretty fortunate to not run into a whole lot of Covid-type cancellations where we had to scramble for an opponent.”
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