Charlotte COVID-19 outbreak forces cancellation of UNC football game

Because the teams' open dates don't line up, the first-ever meeting between the Tar Heels and 49ers likely won't be made up

Charlotte coach Will Healy watches his team from the sidelines in the second half of Saturday's game at Appalachian State (Allison Lee Isley/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

The first-ever football meeting between North Carolina and Charlotte on Saturday has been canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the 49ers.

The announcement was made Thursday morning by Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill.

“We’re extremely disappointed to have to cancel our game at North Carolina,” Hill said in a statement. “While I know our team is heartbroken, due to the number of players in quarantine, we could not safely play.”

According to the release, several members of the 49ers offensive line were placed into quarantine under their school’s contact tracing protocols. Three positive COVID-19 cases were discovered among members of the football team through regular pregame testing required by both the ACC and Conference USA. 

Those players are now in isolation and under medical care.

According to the ACC’s guidelines announced by the league’s board of directors last week, teams must have an “adequate” number of players available from its original full roster in order to compete. Although no specific number is mentioned, the guidelines specify that at least seven scholarship offensive linemen must be dressed and available to play.

Because the two schools’ open dates do not align — UNC’s are next week and Nov. 21 while Charlotte is off on Nov. 14 — the game almost certainly won’t be made up.

The teams are scheduled to play one another in a home-and-home series in 2024 and ’25.

“We’re disappointed we won’t have a chance to play this weekend, but we completely understand and appreciate Charlotte’s transparency,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said in a statement. “We were looking forward to competing against coach (Will) Healy’s group. 

“As you know, we’re good friends so I hate this for him and his team. Hopefully everyone affected is okay and we wish them the best as they move through the season.”

The game between the Tar Heels and 49ers isn’t the only one that could possibly be affected by Charlotte’s coronavirus issues. But despite playing the 49ers last week, Appalachian State is still planning on traveling to Huntington, West Virginia, to take on Marshall on Saturday.

“App State director of athletics Doug Gillin and Marshall director of athletics Mike Hamrick have spoken and both feel confident in our testing protocols ahead of Saturday’s game,” Mountaineers spokeaman Joey Jones said. “App State football student-athletes and coaches have been tested twice this week with zero positive results.

“The team will be tested one more time tonight. Per Sun Belt and Conference USA policies, neither team will allow anyone to participate in the game who tests positive for COVID-19 or who is quarantined for contact tracing.”