The last time North Carolina went this long between games during a football season was in 1952, when a polio outbreak on campus forced the Tar Heels to cancel two games.
For No. 25 Memphis, 28 days will separate its season-opener from Saturday’s game at SMU because of a COVID-19 outbreak that shut down its football facility.
One way or another, the coronavirus has caused the postponement or cancellation of 24 games involving major college football teams since Aug. 26. The latest came Thursday, when Appalachian State postponed next week’s game against against Sun Belt rival Louisiana-Lafayette. The Mountaineers’ next game is scheduled for Oct. 14, while the Ragin’ Cajuns are idle until Oct. 17.
The delays and disruptions have created long layoffs, unusual practice schedules and short-handed rosters, leaving coaches wracking their brains for ways to keep players engaged mentally and physically.
“Does it still hold true that you improve the most between your first and second game if there’s two weeks between them, really three weeks between them?” North Carolina coach Mack Brown asked. “I think probably not. We’re starting over.”
No. 12 North Carolina got its opener in on Sept. 12, beating Syracuse. The next week a nonconference game against Charlotte was postponed a couple of days before it was supposed to be played because the 49ers could not play.
North Carolina had an open date the following week, but couldn’t find a game. The Tar Heels will play at Boston College on Saturday, three weeks after the opener without having had an outbreak of their own.
North Carolina could conduct practices as usual, but Brown dialed it back. The staff suggested holding a scrimmage on what would have been game day, but Brown wasn’t keen on that.
“I was concerned that if we had a scrimmage