Nebraska’s matchup with Wisconsin, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been canceled. The Badgers have also paused all team-related activities “for at least seven days due to an elevated number of COVID-19 cases within the Badgers program,” according to a release from Wisconsin on Wednesday.
“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. “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 news follows earlier reports that Wisconsin’s “test positivity rate is close to the threshold that would force the team to stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and then reassess the situation.” Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz’s was the first to have his COVID-19 test confirmed, but the number of players and staff affected has since grown.
Wisconsin’s release states that 12 people—six players and six staffers—have tested positive in the past five days. That includes 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. “I am disappointed for our players and coaching staff who put so much into preparing to play each week. 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.”
The joint decision to pause football activities and cancel Saturday’s game was made by Alvarez and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. The two also consulted with the Big Ten Conference.
The Big Ten announced dual testing thresholds for competition in September.
- Test positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered):
- Green 0-2%
- Orange 2-5%
- Red >5%
- Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):
- Green 0-3.5%
- Orange 3.5-7.5%
- Red >7.5%
In the case of Wisconsin’s population positivity rate, if the the Badgers are testing 170 people each day—the number allowed by the Big Ten—they would need a combined 13 players and coaches to test positive to hit the 7.5% positivity rate for the “red” status. With Wisconsin currently reporting that 12 have tested positive and more tests pending, the Badgers technically fall within the “orange” category for population positivity rate. The protocol states that if a program is either orange-orange or orange-red, it should “consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition.”
The game will not be rescheduled. The Big Ten previously shared that it would be deemed a “no contest” rather than a forfeit.
Nebraska’s next scheduled game is at Northwestern on Nov. 7.
UPDATE (Oct. 29, 5 p.m.): Wisconsin announced three new cases, bringing its total number of cases to 16.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 29, 2020