Rice delays start of football practice 4 weeks before opener

HOUSTON -- Rice has delayed the start of preseason football practice less than four weeks before the Owls are scheduled to open their pandemic-delayed and shortened season.

The school said in a statement Sunday that current conditions related to the COVID-19 infection rate in Houston and the need for highly reliable and very rapid testing results in context of competitive athletics led to the decision.

"Our top priority is the safety of our community,'' Rice athletic director Joe Karlgaard said. "Rice has safely welcomed back a majority of its student body and will continue to prioritize an on-campus college experience. The very low rates of infection among our campus community are the result of a communal effort and one that requires continued vigilance and dedication. At the same time, we will continue to explore options to allow a football season to happen in 2020.''

The Owls are scheduled to play only their eight Conference USA games, starting Oct. 3 at Marshall. The school said a final decision on the start of practice "will be made later in September'' and that it will work with C-USA on any adjustments to schedule.

"As much as our team wants to get on the field and start their season, we all understand the larger issues involved,'' third-year coach Mike Bloomgren said. "Mitigating the virus on our campus has been and will remain Priority 1, but there is also a commitment to trying to create a consistent scenario for football to be played this fall.''