Mack Rhoades has gone to the media three different times to deflect questions about his decisions that led to the cancellation of the UH/Baylor game. His crisis management program may need some fine-tuning as he continually opened himself up to further questioning.
Here is a timeline of significant events in the Houston/Baylor saga beginning on Wednesday, September 16th.
Wednesday, September 16
Baylor tests everyone in their football program for COVID-19.
Afternoon – Baylor receives Wednesday’s test results indicating numerous positives. In addition, several players must be quarantined due to contact tracing. According to the CDC protocols adopted by the Big 12, anyone that spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of someone that tested positive for COVID-19 is considered to be at risk and must quarantine for 14 days.
Evening – Mack Rhoades sends a single text to Chris Pezman to give him a heads up of “concerns on Baylor’s end.”
8 a.m. – Baylor tests their team and football staff with a third-party antigen test.
Morning – Houston gives an antigen test to 175 people connected to the football program and all 175 come back negative. The program’s equipment truck is loaded and heads to Waco. A travel roster of 72 is scheduled to depart the football facility at 4:15.
Noon – Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt and the rest of the broadcast crew is scheduled to meet Baylor coach Dave Aranda for a regular pre-production meeting. Aranda does not show for it. While Klatt and Co. are waiting, Baylor informs Houston that the game will not be played. Rhoades says he called Chris Pezman himself.
12:15 p.m. – Dana Holgorsen finds out the game will not be played.
12:30 p.m. – Rhoades walks in to speak with Klatt and the Fox crew. He tells them the game will not be played.
12:40 p.m. – Klatt speaks with Dana Holgorsen who Klatt described as “pissed.”
1:20 p.m. – Baylor releases a statement saying the game has been postponed. AD Mack Rhoades says the “loss of this game is a devastating blow, but in the interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes, we believe we made the necessary decision.”
The Big 12 protocols require that the “minimum number of players required to play a game has been set at 53.” The league has additional benchmarks for the number of offensive linemen (7), interior defensive linemen (4), and quarterbacks (1) needed to play. However, the league maintains that “teams falling below any of these benchmarks, based on game week test results, could still elect to play.”
While 53 players is a requirement, the position group numbers are not. Multiple media outlets have incorrectly said the position numbers are required.
1:25 p.m. – UH releases a statement declaring that Baylor canceled the game. Chris Pezman praises UH players for staying vigilant.
“We’re extremely disappointed for our student-athletes, coaches, and staff,” Pezman said. “They all have consistently done the right thing and worked tirelessly to be prepared for this game.
“With our student-athletes’ commitment to doing the right thing, we remain ready to play.”
3:00 p.m. – “(The players) were really, really, really excited about this opportunity,” Pezman said on a media call.
The Cougar football team meets for the first time since learning the news on Friday afternoon. Dana says they “buried” the Baylor game and moved on to UNT.
6:15 a.m. – Joel Klatt goes on the Outkick radio program and, almost as an aside, discloses another way Baylor could have played the game. Klatt says that Aranda chose not to unsuspended an offensive lineman for the game or push the suspension back a week. By making either move, the Bears would have been able to meet the Big 12’s suggestion of 7 offensive linemen.
11 a.m. – Dana Holgorsen’s regularly-scheduled Monday press conference begins. Holgorsen is still irked but moves on pretty fast.
“How it gets to 22 hours before the game, I don’t know,” Holgorsen said. “I mean, there’s a reason why our conference and the Big 12 test 3 times a week. I would think our opponent kind of knows where they’re at, just like we kind of knew where we were at.”
11:58 a.m. – GoCoogs.com releases our story on Joel Klatt’s remarks about the Baylor suspension which, to that point, had gone unnoticed by the media. Over the next 24 hours, The Athletic, ESPN, and others report on the suspension and, in Rhoades’ words, Baylor’s “necessary decision.”
12:15 p.m. – At Dave Aranda’s weekly press conference, a disheveled Mack Rhoades takes the podium first for his own presser. Regarding the offensive line’s readiness for the Kansas game, Rhoades says that “just given the fact that we have some of those young men returning within that position group throughout the week, we feel good about playing Kansas.”
Players that test positive are forced to isolate for 10 days (including the final three days without symptoms) before returning to action. Because the test results in question seemingly occurred on Wednesday, it would be impossible to meet the 10-day minimum and return “throughout the week.” It appears the Baylor OL had some infections prior to Wednesday.
5:30 p.m. – Baylor releases news that the athletics department had 3 new positive tests in total in the prior seven days. All of Baylor’s weekly releases on testing results note that the positives were in multiple sports including when they had just one new positive (July 27 update).
Earlier, Rhoades said that “not exact, but approximately 50%, half and half, 50% were out because of positive and 50% were out because of the close contact.” From this, it is likely that there were 2-3 new positives and 2-3 new contact traces.
With 17 total offensive linemen on the roster, that means 11 were either suspended, dealing with COVID or contact tracing issues or were injured and unable to play.
Noon – The Athletic releases a story that, among other things, says “the two programs had medical calls throughout the week to share updates.” Neither Baylor or Houston have suggested that the Bears furnished any information about OL issues before the Thursday night text from Rhoades.
Max Olson from The Athletic quoted a UH source saying, “if we knew we had a problem, we would’ve been transparent and said we’ve got some positives.”
4 p.m. – Mack Rhoades appears on SicEm365 Radio to further discuss the UH situation. Having released a statement on Friday and spoken to the media on Monday, it is curious why he continued to want to keep the story alive on Tuesday.
Following the reporting on Klatt’s suspended linemen information, Rhoades finally addressed the topic. Rhoades said that he and Aranda “probably had 3 or 4 different conversations about it” before deciding not to play the game. He was not asked about moving the suspension back a week, how many total COVID-19 positives they had Friday, how many in total were in contact tracing protocol, or how many injured linemen Baylor had.
Later, in a teed-up question, Rhoades critiqued Dana Holgorsen.
SicEm365 Radio – Are you a little disappointed there’s a little chirping going on from Houston after all the work you put into making this game happen?
Mack Rhoades – Yeah, you know I’ll be candid, I’m, I’m, I’m disappointed in, in their head coach and and the chirping, and um, you know, and I let, I let the AD know it. And, you know? In my opinion, not professional but we’ll move on and we’ll move forward.
Beyond the irony that Rhoades is completely unprofessional for calling out another school’s coach, Holgorsen’s only public comments on the subject were mild, to say the least. Incredibly mild for Holgorsen. Dana’s “chirping” in full:
“How it gets to 22 hours before the game, I don’t know. I mean, there’s a reason why our conference and the Big 12 test 3 times a week. I would think our opponent kind of knows where they’re at, just like we kind of knew where we were at. To the point to where it gets 22 hours before the game, we’ve got five buses out there, we’ve got hotels lined up, we’ve got our equipment truck parked (in Waco).”
Rhoades knew that by shifting the media focus to Holgorsen’s tame comments, he could avoid real questions about his department’s decisions leading up to and including the cancellation of the game.