This resulted in a 36th pandemic-related cancellation or postponement of college football games since early September and a first for the Big Ten.
On Wednesday morning, the school reported 12 positive tests, six among players and six among staff, including head coach Paul Chryst who said, “I notified my staff and the team this morning and am currently isolated at home. I had no symptoms until this morning and felt fine. “
According to the Big Ten guidelines, a five percent positive test results in a seven-day hiatus from training and competition. These guidelines were released on September 16, when the conference played to its capacity for daily antigen testing and reversed a decision made five weeks earlier to give up football this fall.
The Wisconsin-Nebraska game became more of a cancellation than a postponement as the Big Ten exercised caution and started later than other leagues like the SEC, ACC and Big 12, leaving less room for planning once they decided to play this fall. The eight-game schedule, which is conference-only, runs continuously from October 24th to December 12th. The Big Ten championship game is scheduled for December 19th. This prevented a postponement in line with the five SEC games that have postponed, including LSU-Florida from October 17 through December 12, and confirmed the possibility that some Big Ten teams are playing fewer games than others.
The Wisconsin-Nebraska news followed reports in the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier this week that Wisconsin’s top two active quarterbacks, Graham Mertz and Chase Wolf, tested positive for the virus. That meant these players had to skip a second positive test for 21 days, a break that was at least a week longer than the other four Power Five conferences. The inadmissibility of Mertz, the Red Shirt freshman who stood up for the injured Jack Coan and excelled with a 20v21 pass against Illinois and Wolf, would have Wisconsin with fourth-string quarterback Danny Vanden Boom, being able to leave.
The Big Ten had already seen another pandemic phenomenon, namely that of a head coach who tested positive and watched a game from home. That happened last Saturday when Purdue beat Iowa 24:20 at West Lafayette while Purdue coach Jeff Brohm felt the agony of being absent from the sidelines.
“Well, it wasn’t much fun,” he said in a videoconference Monday as he sought to return to training on Wednesday. “The end result was definitely great. My wife, son, and daughter made sure they got out of the house and went to the game so it was just me and I don’t blame them a bit. So it was unique. I’ve never really experienced this before, and probably never look forward to doing it again, because it doesn’t feel like you’re a part of it and there isn’t much you can do. “
He described a scene with “multiple televisions in the house (and) in the little pool house we have outside” as if he had wandered from one room to another. “And yes, I had a dog, there were a few times when I screamed … So I felt bad, I was scared of the dog a few times. I think I was a bit calm and collected for the most part, ”he said.
The three-quarter poodle, a quarter of Saint Bernard named Coco, who Brohm’s wife Jennifer and daughter Brooke seem to have taken into the family during the pandemic without the trainer’s blessing, appears to have become one of those pets that has this reluctance overcome. “They keep you busy,” Brohm said, “and they give you something to do, and during this isolation that I’ve had, the only thing I can do is when I feel like I’m achieving something.”
Wisconsin’s plight came amid a state hit by a coronavirus onslaught, but also a campus that has seen a steep drop in cases since mid-September.
In a video conference with reporters on Tuesday, Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin Department of Health’s chief medical officer, “a nightmare scenario” as the state reported 5,262 new cases and 64 deaths, both new highs. It was followed on Monday when Governor Tony Evers said, “Yesterday, Wisconsin reached another worrying and tragic milestone when we exceeded 200,000 positive cases of Covid-19 in our state. While it took us just over seven months to hit our first 100,000 cases, it only took us a fraction of that time to hit our second 100,000 cases. This time it only took 36 days. “
Within the state, however, colleges had managed to reduce the number of cases, and on Friday night during the Illinois-Wisconsin game, one of the busiest university towns in the country looked more like a ghost town. It lacked the visible crowd in courtyards or bars that could be seen at the start of the season in southeastern university cities like Tuscaloosa and Athens.
“What stopped the outbreak,” Westergaard said Tuesday of Wisconsin’s colleges, “was when they found cases, they were isolated.” They had a special dormitory. “They had a different building, he said, for those whose exposure to the virus came up in the contact trace. The positive tests among students and staff on the Madison campus, which peaked at 290 on September 9 alone, had dropped to 110 in the seven days leading up to Monday, down from just two on Monday.
But they hit the depth map at the most visible location of the most visible campus unit, the football program, in a season when some coaches separate positional players for travel and meetings so that one position doesn’t become depleted enough to negate the team’s viability . In a video meeting with reporters Monday, Chryst was unable to confirm any single positive tests, but said he expected Wisconsin to play in Nebraska.
The cancellation followed another week of schedule changes that are now well known in the pandemic landscape. The FIU has postponed its home game at Conference USA, which had previously been scheduled for Friday against Marshall No. 19, due to “lack of scholarships for student-athletes” testing and contact tracing and injuries. “New Mexico and first year head coach Danny Gonzales, who canceled his home game against Colorado last weekend due to worrying local numbers, arranged his Mountain West Conference game against San Jose in San Jose and not against Albuquerque.