USC announced Saturday that it will opt out of playing in a bowl game this season, a decision that was reached collectively by the medical team, Trojan players and staff, head coach Clay Helton and athletic director Mike Bohn.

The decision was made “following a recommendation from the USC medical team and discussions with the Trojan football leadership council,” according to a team statement.

“The football program has experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases among its players and staff recently, including positive cases this past week,” the statement said. “Due to a variety of factors, including injuries stemming from playing three games in 13 days, the number of available Trojan scholarship players is nearing the Pac-12’s recommended 53-player threshold needed to play a game. With COVID-19 cases increasing locally, USC has already paused until Jan. 4, 2021, all team activities in sports currently not in season.”

The statement said the USC men’s basketball team was in a 14-day quarantine as a result of a positive COVID case.

“I am incredibly inspired by our players and the sacrifices they made these past six months to play the game that they love,” said Helton. “They did everything we asked of them to abide by the challenging guidelines they had to follow to stay safe and well, whether it was daily testing or keeping distant from family and friends or training in less-than-ideal ways.

“It has not been easy, and it is hard for anyone outside the program to understand how immensely difficult these past few months have been for them. We all share the desire to stay healthy and be with loved ones during the holidays and I fully support this collective decision. I thank our players for their remarkable efforts. We are all disappointed by how our season ended, but I am extremely proud of our players and it is an honor to be their coach.”

Bohn echoed those comments.

“We are a student-athlete-centered athletics program; thus we fully support the decision to opt out of a bowl game this year.”The physical and mental health and the safety of our student-athletes is paramount, and this season has been unimaginably taxing on our players in particular. This will allow them to be with their families who they haven’t seen for a long time and begin preparing for their spring semester academics.

“We are sincerely grateful for how our student-athletes, coaches and staff handled this unprecedented season and worked through so much adversity. I thank them for their incredible passion and effort these past few months. We are thankful for all the support we’ve received from our campus partners, medical community, athletics staff, donors and fans. We are looking forward to the 2021 season.”

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