Several reports confirmed the matchup between the No. 9 University of Wisconsin football team and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 31 is canceled.
Just as Badger fans thought things couldn’t get any worse following the announcement of positive COVID-19 tests for quarterbacks Graham Mertz and Chase Wolf, four other players and six coaches tested positive for COVID-19, including Head Coach Paul Chryst, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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The Badgers’ current test positivity rate passed the threshold set by the league (5%) that requires teams to stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days.
“I am disappointed for our players and coaching staff who put so much into preparing to play each week,” Chryst said in a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal. “But the safety of everyone in our program has to be our top priority, and I support the decision made to pause our team activities.”
Protocols additionally state that Chryst and the other coaches who tested positive in the program are required to isolate themselves for a minimum of 10 days before returning to in-person coaching or practice activities, meaning the earliest they could return to the team is Nov. 6, the day before the team’s next scheduled game with Purdue.
UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Athletic Director Barry Alvarez revealed in a statement from the university that pausing team activities was a joint decision.
“We have said from the beginning that the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members comes first,” Alvarez said in the 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.”
Pausing team activities poses a high risk for cancellation of the following home matchup against Purdue. If the case numbers stop rising and university leadership deems it acceptable, the earliest the Badgers could be back on the practice field would be Wednesday, Nov. 4 — giving the team a mere three days to prepare for the game.
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According to Big Ten protocols, Wisconsin needs to play six games in order to be considered for the Big Ten Championship. With only eight games scheduled for each team, the Badgers cannot afford to have any other games canceled in the future.
Chryst was seen with his mask below his nose for much of the Badgers’ first game against Illinois and is now the second known coach in the Big Ten to have contracted the virus, after Purdue Head Coach Jeff Brohm was forced to sit out for the team’s first game Saturday.
The game against Nebraska will now be declared a no-contest rather than a forfeit for the Badgers, meaning the game doesn’t count as a win or a loss for either team. The game will not be rescheduled.