No. 9 Wisconsin has canceled its game at Nebraska on Saturday and paused all team activities for at least seven days after a dozen people within the program including coach Paul Chryst tested positive for COVID-19.
School officials said Wednesday that athletic director Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Rebecca Blank made the decision in consultation with Big Ten officials. The game with Nebraska won’t be rescheduled.
“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.”
Wisconsin said six players and six staff members had tested positive over the last five days. Additional test results were pending.
Wisconsin becomes the first Big Ten school to postpone a game since the league started its pandemic-delayed season last week. This is the 37th game involving Football Bowl Subdivision teams to be postponed or canceled since Aug. 6.
The announcement followed reports that quarterback Graham Mertz had tested positive twice – which would require him to sit out at least 21 days under Big Ten protocols – and that backup quarterback Chase Wolf had tested positive at least once.
Last year’s starting quarterback, Jack Coan, is already out indefinitely following foot surgery. The Badgers’ only other scholarship quarterback is junior Danny Vanden Boom.
“I am disappointed for our players and coaching staff who put so much into preparing to play each week,” Chryst said. “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.”
Rescheduling the Nebraska game would have been problematic because the Big Ten’s nine-game schedule didn’t give any teams off weeks. Wisconsin’s next scheduled game is Nov. 7 at home against Purdue.
The Big Ten requires teams to play at least six games to be eligible for the league championship game. If the average number of conference games played by all Big Ten teams is below six, programs must play no less than two fewer league games than that average to be considered.
The state of Wisconsin has been hit hard by the virus lately. State health officials reported 5,262 newly confirmed cases on Tuesday, shattering the daily record of 4,591 set on Oct. 20. They also reported the virus was a factor in an additional 64 deaths, also a record.