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East Carolina football dealing with ‘some issues’ related to coronavirus testing ahead of Navy game

East Carolina head coach Mike Houston, shown along the sideline during the season opener against Central Florida, said his program is dealing with some issues related to coronavirus testing.
East Carolina head coach Mike Houston, shown along the sideline during the season opener against Central Florida, said his program is dealing with some issues related to coronavirus testing. (Gerry Broome/AP)

There are strong indications the East Carolina football team might be impacted by coronavirus when it hosts Navy on Saturday.

Coach Mike Houston took the unusual step Wednesday night of addressing the media prior to virtual news conferences scheduled for the East Carolina offensive and defensive coordinators. Houston stated the Pirates are “dealing with some issues right now” related to COVID-19 testing.

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Houston acknowledged the issues arose from testing conducted Monday following East Carolina’s win at South Florida. The second-year coach would name specific players affected by positive tests or contact tracing.

“Not really going to discuss or get into who’s available or who’s not available right now. We have had to make some adjustments, but those adjustments have been made and are going to continue to be made,” Houston said. “We won’t have a true picture until the end of the week of what our roster is going to look like.”

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East Carolina tested football players and staff again Wednesday morning and was due to receive results by early Thursday morning. American Athletic Conference guidelines say both participating teams must take a final antigen test Friday morning before Saturday’s game is allowed to proceed.

AAC schools are not permitted to release the status of individual players in terms of testing. East Carolina football practice has been closed to the media this week, preventing reporters from determining if any players missed practice.

One East Carolina football beater reporter asked Houston about the status of starting quarterback Houston Ahlers, who is rumored to be among the players impacted by Monday’s testing, but Houston declined to “address any kind of rumor.”

"You know how rumors go, so you better be careful,” he added.

Houston only vaguely referenced the prospect East Carolina could have multiple players ruled out of Saturday’s game against Navy, a noon kickoff at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville.

“We are dealing with some issues right now and we’ll continue to work through them as the week goes on,” he said. “We had another round of testing today, so it’s a situation that’s still very fluid.”

Houston expressed confidence the Pirates would be prepared for Saturday regardless of what happens the rest of this week.

“We’ve had two really good practices, particularly today. Really pleased with the way our team practiced today,” Houston said Wednesday evening. “The energy, the effort, the performance … we were really able to correct some things from yesterday and have a productive day. I feel very, very good about where we are going into the weekend. I feel confident our team is going to be ready to go.”

Elsewhere, the AAC announced Thursday that the scheduled football game between Cincinnati and Tulsa on Saturday has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases at Cincinnati and the ensuing quarantine of student-athletes. The game has been rescheduled to Dec. 5.

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