Georgia Tech-Notre Dame game postponed

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner during come-from-behind 72-67 victory over North Carolina Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.  (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner during come-from-behind 72-67 victory over North Carolina Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

On Sunday night, after Georgia Tech had defeated Wake Forest at McCamish Pavilion for its fourth win in a row, coach Josh Pastner shared a word with this players to reinforce the uncertainty of this season and the importance of not taking for granted the opportunity to play games.

“‘Guys, we don’t know if we’re playing Notre Dame and Louisville this week, or Pitt next week and then at N.C. State,’” Pastner quoted himself as saying on his Monday-night radio show. “‘You don’t know. We don’t know. So you don’t want to have any regrets.’”

Pastner’s words proved prophetic. On Tuesday morning, as the Yellow Jackets readied for practice and then a flight to South Bend, Ind., to play Notre Dame, a positive COVID-19 test within the team scrambled all plans. The test and subsequent quarantining and contact tracing put the team on pause for all athletic activities, including the Jackets’ game against the Fighting Irish.

There is no set date for a restart, which casts doubt on the Jackets’ game at Louisville on Saturday. A news release did not identify whether the infected person was a player, coach or staff member.

“Like we’ve said throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff is our No. 1 priority,” Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury said in a statement. “Therefore, in accordance with the protocols established by the ACC Medical Advisory Group, we are temporarily pausing athletic activities within our men’s basketball program. This unfortunately includes the postponement of tomorrow’s game at Notre Dame. Our full focus is on the health of our student-athletes and staff. We’re looking forward to our team returning to action as soon as it’s safe and appropriate to do so within the Medical Advisory Group’s guidelines.”

It is the second game on the Jackets’ schedule that will not be played as scheduled. Their Dec. 23 game at Alabama-Birmingham was canceled because of positive COVID tests and contact tracing within the Blazers team. The Jackets were quarantined for two weeks in September, before the start of preseason practices, because of a positive test. Also, forward David Didenko missed the team’s win over North Carolina on Wednesday because of what Pastner said was COVID-19 protocol.

Pastner has spoken often of the attention that the team has placed on following COVID-19 protocols, such as his persistence in having players wash their hands with soap rather than use hand sanitizer when possible. When the team made its first road trip of the season, a Dec. 9 game at Nebraska, Pastner left the Jackets’ five walk-ons at home to help ensure social distancing while traveling.

Entering Tuesday’s games, 11 league games have been ACC postponed, with 16 successfully played. Further, it will be difficult for any postponed league game to be made up. For example, starting with the North Carolina game, the Jackets play two games a week with only one open date through the end of the regular season. Their one clear availability is a break between games Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 (both Saturdays) when Tech has no mid-week game. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has two other league games to make up. Tech’s postponement was the sixth game that Notre Dame has had scuttled, all for COVID-related reasons on the part of its opponents.

“Scouting is a total waste of time right now, and I’ve told our staff that,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said on the ACC’s videoconference Monday, even before he knew that the Tech game would be postponed.

From a competition standpoint, the pause comes at an inopportune time for the Jackets, who have won four in a row and six of their past seven, including wins over North Carolina and Wake Forest.

An earlier version of this story misstated Georgia Tech’s opponent for its Saturday game. The Yellow Jackets are to play at Louisville.

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