Vanderbilt football game against Georgia postponed due to COVID-19, opt-outs, injuries

Adam Sparks
Nashville Tennessean

Vanderbilt's football game against No. 10 Georgia on Saturday has been postponed due to a shortage of available players on the Commodores' roster, the SEC office confirmed Friday.

The game will be played on Dec. 19, unless Georgia wins the East Division to qualify for the SEC Championship game on that same date. If that occurred, the Vanderbilt-Georgia game would be declared a no-contest and not played.

Florida (7-1) leads Georgia (6-2) in the East Division by one game, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker, with potentially two games remaining.

The SEC also announced Friday that Vanderbilt (0-8) will host Tennessee on Dec. 12.  The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 27 but was postponed to allow the Commodores to play Missouri last week.  Kickoff and broadcast details will be announced on a later date. 

Vanderbilt and Tennessee have played their rivalry game every year since 1945.

The Commodores are trying to avoid their first winless season in school history, although this year is an SEC-only schedule.

Why did Vanderbilt lack the players to play the game?

The SEC recommends 53 scholarship players available to play a game. On Tuesday, interim coach Todd Fitch said Vanderbilt had at least 53 with two COVID-19 tests still ahead. But he also acknowledged that a few players had considered opting out after coach Derek Mason was fired.

According to a Vanderbilt news release, its lack of available players stems from circumstances surrounding COVID-19, injuries and opt-outs.

Vanderbilt's number has hovered around the 53-player mark most of the season, due to COVID-19 infections, contact tracing, opt-outs, injuries and transfers. Its game against Missouri was initially postponed Oct. 12 because of COVID-19, and Vanderbilt's available roster dropped into the 40s during the ensuing off week, according to Mason.

Vanderbilt had at least 10 players opt out before this week, which led the SEC. Eight players have transferred since spring practice. Starting safety Donovan Kaufman was lost to a season-ending injury. 

Will Sarah Fuller kick again for Vanderbilt?

The postponement means that kicker Sarah Fuller, the first woman to play in a Power Five college football game, will wait at least another week before possibly getting a chance to score.

And, even then, Ryley Guay may be the team's kicker. Guay, last year's kicker, returned to practice this week. He is in Vanderbilt medical school and has one year of eligibility remaining.

Guay made 22 of 33 field goals and 66 of 66 PAT kicks in his career, serving as the primary kicker in 2018 and 2019. He also kicked off 77 times.

Georgia AD not happy

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity was frustrated by the postponement, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“I don’t take things personal, but when our institution suffers, it upsets me greatly,” McGarity said. “It’s just extremely frustrating and extremely disappointing, especially if the game on the 19th can’t be played, and that’s what we fear.

“Hopefully Vandy will be prepared to play (Dec. 19). It’s just so frustrating when you have coaches and players and support staff that make significant sacrifices to stay safe, and they do so, and then they have no competitive benefit other than their health."

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