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SAN JOSE — The San Jose State football team that is enjoying a historic season returned home for the first time in three weeks Sunday, but the Spartans don’t plan to stay long, a decision that raises questions about Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 restrictions.
According to the latest plan, No. 19 San Jose State will depart next Sunday to prepare for the Arizona Bowl in Tucson. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 31 against the Mid-American Conference champion Ball State (6-1).
Coach Brent Brennan said after the Spartans won their first Mountain West Conference title Saturday night that players and staff would have a chance to spend the holidays with their families.
But the return to campus Sunday morning led to questions about Santa Clara County’s mandatory 10-day quarantine for anyone traveling to the area from beyond 150 miles.
Would leaving for Tucson on Dec. 27 effectively break a quarantine mandate? A county spokeswoman said no one at the public health department was available Sunday to address questions.
An athletic department spokesman said San Jose State’s players and coaches would follow all county public health guidelines involving the novel coronavirus pandemic as case rates surged in the past week in the Bay Area and beyond.
The school official said he had no information about how players could see families with a mandatory stay-at-home-order in place until 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 4.
The spokesman said most of the football players have not seen family members since July when they moved to campus to prepare for the 2020 season.
He added that the SJSU traveling party had COVID-19 tests before leaving Las Vegas on Sunday morning.
The spokesman said the Spartans would pause team activities through Christmas, then take COVID-19 tests next Saturday. Everyone who tests negative would fly to Tucson the next day.
San Jose State (7-0) would have played three consecutive home games but for Santa Clara County’s ban on all contact sports that was announced Nov. 28. The Spartans held practices in Santa Cruz County at Scotts Valley High School then left on Dec. 3 to play at Hawaii.
After the game, San Jose State flew to Las Vegas where it played and trained for the past two weeks at UNLV’s former stadium.
The team stayed at the Westin Hotel in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada, where two weeks ago it shared space with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Spartans’ stay culminated with a 34-20 victory Saturday in the conference championship against favored Boise State.
Boise State (5-2) decided against playing in a postseason bowl after 18 consecutive appearances, the school announced Sunday.
“This is about a team decision and what the team feels is best for everyone mentally, physically and emotionally,” a statement attributed to three players said. “Now, it is time for all of us to get healthy and focus on 2021.”
San Jose State plans to make its first postseason appearance since defeating Georgia State 27-15 in the Cure Bowl in 2015.
The Spartans, having their best season since 1939, also relocated to Humboldt in October because of Santa Clara County restrictions on contact drills at the time. The move cost the program between $100,000- $150,000, a school official said.
Athletic director Marie Tuite has praised the athletes and coaches for showing discipline in limiting the number of COVID-19 positives this year. Two football games were canceled this season because of virus issues involving SJSU opponents Fresno State and Boise State.
A recent New York Times’ survey of Football Bowl Subdivision schools showed San Jose State ranked sixth of the seven Mountain West Conference schools that completed the form in its total number of cases.
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At the time, SJSU reported eight cases of those who play or work in the athletic department. Since then the school has had a total of 11 cases, a school spokesman recently told the Bay Area News Group.
According to the Times’ report, Stanford reported 32 cases, Cal 25.
Only 78 of the 130 FBS schools participated in the survey. Of those who completed the form, 31 schools reported fewer positive cases than San Jose State.
The Times reported that at least 6,629 people in major college sports had contracted the virus.