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Arizona's final game vs. Cal is canceled; Wildcats finish season 0-5
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Arizona's final game vs. Cal is canceled; Wildcats finish season 0-5

UA just fired its coach, has depleted roster; Cal couldn't play last week due to COVID-19

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Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, right, came to Arizona after coaching at UCLA, Arkansas, Iowa State, Auburn and Pitt.

The Pac-12 football schedule for the final weekend will not include the Arizona Wildcats.

After releasing the slate Sunday morning, the conference sent out an update a little over eight hours later. The originally scheduled Arizona-Cal game will not be played due to both teams "not having the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes available for the game."

As a result, Arizona's season is over. The Wildcats finished 0-5 - the first winless campaign in program history.

Arizona fired Coach Kevin Sumlin on Saturday, one day after the UA lost to rival Arizona State 70-7. Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads is serving as the team's interim coach.

Cal couldn’t play this past Saturday because of COVID-19 contact-tracing issues. Specifically, the Golden Bears did not have “the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes available for the game as a result of one positive football student-athlete COVID-19 case confirmed via a PCR test ... and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact-tracing protocols.”

Contact-tracing protocols can last beyond a week. Cal was unable to play its Nov. 7 opener against Washington, then faced UCLA the following Sunday – the extra day allowing just enough Golden Bears to be cleared.

Arizona didn't miss a game because of its own COVID issues, but the Wildcats had been playing with a depleted roster because of opt-outs, transfers and injuries. They had only 55 scholarship players available for the Dec. 5 game against Colorado and about the same number for ASU. The Cats then suffered multiple injuries against the Sun Devils. The threshold to play, per Pac-12 policy, is 53 players.

"Our heart goes out to all the student-athletes who put in so much preparation and time to play the game they love," Cal coach Justin Wilcox said in a statement. "We are disappointed that we are not able to host Arizona, but I am proud of our team and what we have been able to accomplish under difficult and unprecedented circumstances this season.

"Proving a safe environment has been at the top of our priority list throughout the season, and I'd like to thank everyone who helped us put together a plan to practice and play within health guidelines ... We have a bright future ahead of us, and we are looking forward to preparing for 2021."

The Golden Bears were able to play only four of a possible seven games, finishing 1-3.

Arizona’s season ended the way it began – with a cancellation. The Wildcats were supposed to open this pandemic-shortened campaign on Nov. 7 at Utah. But the day before the game – just hours before they were supposed to fly to Salt Lake City – the game was called off because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Utes program.

The other matchups more or less sync up with the standings, although there are some notable twists.

Washington is slated to face USC in Los Angeles in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday. But that isn’t the only game scheduled to be played at the L.A. Coliseum.

Oregon and Colorado also are on the docket for a game at USC’s home stadium. They’re the second-place squads in each division. Their game is slated for Saturday night.

The matchup is an attempt by the Pac-12 to set up a contingency plan in case the Huskies (or Trojans) aren’t available to play. UW had to cancel its game last week against Oregon for the same reason Cal couldn’t play – not enough available scholarship players.

The other scheduling oddity has Arizona State visiting Oregon State. The Sun Devils have played only one home game this season (out of three total); the Beavers have played four of their six games in Corvallis.

Here’s the full slate of Pac-12 games for Dec. 18-19 (all times Mountain):

  • Washington at USC (PCG, Friday, 6 p.m., Fox)
  • Washington State at Utah (Saturday, 11:30 a.m., FS1)
  • Stanford at UCLA (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
  • Oregon vs. Colorado (Saturday, 7 p.m., FS1, at USC)
  • Arizona State at Oregon State (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev 

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