COVID-19 case at New Mexico State causes cancellation of Dixie State men’s basketball conference opener

Dixie State University huddles before its game at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 17, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — Another important first for Dixie State’s transition to Division I will be delayed due to COVID-19.

Frank Staine dribbles for Dixie State University at Southern Utah University, men’s basketball, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 17, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Dixie State announced Monday that the Trailblazers’ first conference men’s basketball game scheduled Friday against New Mexico State was canceled due to a positive test for COVID-19 in the Aggies’ program. The second game of the series, scheduled for Saturday, was also canceled. The series was rescheduled for March 5-6.

Friday’s game would have been the team’s first test in the Western Athletic Conference competition, taking on the conference’s three-time defending champion right away. As of now, the Trailblazers will have to wait another full week before taking on University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which finished third in the conference last year.

Dixie State officials said it is working to schedule a replacement series this weekend but has not yet announced anything official. Media relations director Steve Johnson said the team is considering both home and away games.

As it stands, Dixie State will have waited 16 days between its final preseason contest on Dec. 29 against No. 1 Gonzaga and its opener Jan. 15 at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which is the only WAC team without games on the schedule this weekend. The university lost both of its games slated against Chicago State after the Cougars shut down their program due to COVID-19 concerns in December. Johnson did not say if the team is looking out of conference for a partner this weekend.

The cancellation is the latest in a litany of schedule changes for the Trailblazers, marking the seventh and eighth games that could not be played from an already-revised schedule released just weeks before the preseason began. Dixie State had to cancel its preseason opener with Weber State, as well as a mid-December game against Utah State, and they had to flip Bethesda and SAGU American Indian College on the schedule before ultimately canceling the contest with the latter altogether. The February series with Chicago State was also removed from the schedule.

None of the cancellations stemmed from issues within the Dixie State program. Junior Frank Staine announced on Twitter on Dec. 26 that he had tested positive and missed the game at Gonzaga, along with three others through contact tracing, but no full games have been taken off the schedule due to COVID-19 protocols on Dixie’s end.

The new dates with New Mexico State come by way of COVID-19, as well. The weekend of March 5 was DSU’s scheduled bye week, and the Aggies were slated to play Chicago State, leaving a vacancy on their calendar as well.

Also on Tuesday, Dixie State announced the suspension of the remainder of the women’s basketball program’s season.

Dixie State is 4-2 in nonconference competition. Should it not be able to find a team to host this weekend, its next home game will be Jan. 22 against Grand Canyon to open the WAC era at Burns Arena.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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