It was Memphis basketball's call not to play Tennessee. Here's why the Tigers had no choice

Jason Munz
Memphis Commercial Appeal

NASHVILLE – It was ultimately up to the Memphis basketball program whether to cancel Saturday's game against Tennessee, according to the American Athletic Conference. 

The Tigers felt they had no choice but to cancel after two positive COVID-19 tests resulted in the majority of the roster being placed into contact tracing Saturday morning, which ruled out enough players that Memphis didn't feel like it could field a full lineup at Bridgestone Arena.

"We simply didn’t have anywhere near a reasonable amount of players to play," a source within the program told The Commercial Appeal on Saturday. "We're talking down to, like, four or five." 

In an email to The Commercial Appeal, an AAC spokesperson wrote "the decision to cancel, postpone or reschedule a game rests solely with the affected team." There are no sport-specific regulations regarding COVID-19 protocol for nonconference games this season, the spokesperson said. 

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Memphis (6-4) has unvaccinated players on its roster, a separate source confirmed, though it's not clear how many. Prior to the season, coach Penny Hardaway estimated "probably 90%" had received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

"It was all happening so quickly and you're also thinking about the right thing to do relating to the opponent and (those who had not been ruled out)," the source said. 

Memphis is scheduled to face Alabama State at 7 p.m. Tuesday at FedExForum. However, given Saturday's developments, it's unclear whether they will affect that game's status. 

Reach sports writer Jason Munz at jason.munz@commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @munzly.