Wisconsin’s game at Nebraska won’t be played on Saturday.
The Badgers said Wednesday that the game would be declared a no contest because of COVID-19 cases at Wisconsin. Twelve people within the program have tested positive for the coronavirus. Six are coaches and six are players. The team has suspended football activities for a week.
"We have said from the beginning that the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members comes first," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. "Over the past several days we have seen a rising number of student-athletes and staff contract the virus. The responsible thing for us to do is to pause football-related activities for at least seven days."
The game is the first Big Ten game to be canceled due to COVID-19. Wisconsin opened the Big Ten season with a convincing win over Illinois on Friday night and the team’s COVID-19 issues reportedly started the next day.
According to the Big Ten’s coronavirus rules, a team has to stop practice and competition for a minimum of seven days if its player positivity rate is greater than five percent over a seven-day rolling average or its population positivity rate — that includes all staffers within a program — is greater than the 7.5 percent.
One of the people who tested positive was head coach Paul Chryst.
"This morning I received the news that I had tested positive via a PCR test I took yesterday," Chryst said. "I informed my staff and the team this morning and am currently isolating at home. I had not been experiencing any symptoms and feel good as of this morning.
Chryst said Wednesday afternoon that he was unsure of where the outbreak first began.
“I don’t know ground zero or where it really started,” Chryst said.
Since the Big Ten is asking its teams to play nine games over the course of nine weeks, the game will not be made up. It’s at least the 36th game at the top level of college football to be postponed or canceled in 2020.
The Big Ten said last week that teams must play a minimum of six games to be considered eligible for the conference title game. Division standings will be decided via winning percentage, meaning a team that is 7-1 at the end of its eight-game regular-season schedule will have the edge over a 6-1 team that was unable to play a game. The cancellation of Saturday’s game means that Wisconsin and Nebraska can only afford to have one more game canceled the rest of the season to be eligible for the division title.
The Big Ten’s rules also mandate that a player who tests positive must sit out a minimum of 21 days from the date of the first positive test. In that time period, the player will undergo a comprehensive health and cardiac screening before he can return to play. That means a Wisconsin player who tested positive after the Illinois game could miss two more weeks of competition before being allowed to play.
Wisconsin is scheduled to play Purdue on Nov. 7 if its test rate declines enough to resume football activities next week.
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