CASPER — Tom Burman understands the frustration level was high for those fans who drove on slick roads to see the Cowboys start the Mountain West men’s basketball race this past Saturday at the Arena-Auditorium.
Shortly before Wyoming’s scheduled tip-off with Boise State, it was determined that the visitors would not be able to play the game due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Broncos stepped off their charter flight Friday seemingly in good health, but several members of the team woke up Saturday with coronavirus symptoms.
Ultimately, Boise State had to postpone the game.
According to UW’s athletics director, the delay in the announcement was because the teams were waiting to see if the Idaho Department of Health would provide any flexibility for vaccinated players who had yet to receive their booster.
“At the end of the day, the (Idaho) Department of Health said, ‘No, you’ve got to follow protocol, as they need to be quarantined and cannot compete,’” Burman told the Star-Tribune. “We were pushing them hard to give us answers, but we couldn’t get answers.
“I do believe their administration wanted them to play because they’d already spent $40,000 getting here.”
UW’s subsequent game scheduled for Tuesday night at Nevada and this Saturday’s game at Fresno State were also postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Cowboys’ program.
The Cowgirls, who lost a Dec. 31 game at UNLV while playing shorthanded due to coronavirus protocols, have had three games postponed – Tuesday’s Mountain West opener against Boise State, Thursday’s game at San Jose State and Saturday’s game at Fresno State.
Burman said there are asymptomatic and symptomatic coronavirus cases in both of UW’s basketball programs.
“None of them are in in dire straits by any stretch of imagination,” Burman said of the positive cases. “Some have bad flu (symptoms), some have mild flu (symptoms).”
Conferences from coast to coast are struggling to play games during the surge caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Burman noted that even conferences with vastly more resources than the Mountain West, including the Big Ten, have experienced some last-minute postponements or cancellations.
Entering Tuesday’s schedule, eight of the 11 MW men’s teams had played just one conference game, with UW being among the three schools yet to get started.
Every Mountain West women’s team had played at least one conference game, with Nevada leading the way with a 3-0 start.
“We’ll get some level of season in,” Burman said. “Obviously we’re having cancellations right now. I think the next 10 days there are going to be a lot of cancellations around the country.
“I guess the optimist in me believes that as soon as we get through a point where the majority of players on both the men’s women’s side have had it and/or been boosted, then return to play will be a little bit easier.”
The Cowboys, who went 11-2 during non-conference play and were No. 33 in the NET ranking Tuesday, have not played since a 77-57 win over South Florida on Christmas Day at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
This is the first time Jeff Linder’s program has had to postpone games during the pandemic due to its own COVID-19 issues.
Even though most players experience no symptoms or mild symptoms, the virus continues to wreak havoc on the Pokes’ college experience.
“It is in the back of their mind, and they do get scared and there is a fear component to it,” Linder said on his weekly radio show Monday night. “They still are young kids, and it’s our responsibility to make sure we protect them and do what’s best for them.”
The Cowboys’ next scheduled game is Jan. 12 against San Diego State at the Arena-Auditorium.
The Mountain West will try to reschedule postponed games, but UW fans shouldn’t hold their breath on the Broncos coming back to Laramie for what would have been a key conference game.
Games that are not rescheduled will be declared no contests.
The Cowgirls (5-6, 1-1), who opened conference play with a quality win at San Diego State and nearly rallied to beat UNLV, are scheduled to host Fresno State on Sunday.
“There will be some (games) made up, but there’s no way you’re going to make them all up and there’s no way it’s going to be fair,” Burman said. “Not everybody’s going to embrace the decisions that are made as far as rescheduling. If the coaches do it, they’re going to want all home games against the lower half of the league. If administrators do it, we’re going to want home games because we just want the money.
“So the conference is going to end up having to make the decisions and it will not be popular with the coaches, but that’s fine.”