Badgers halt, cancel game after COVID outbreak

  • Senior college football writer
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  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

Wisconsin’s football team has paused all team-related activities for at least seven days because of an increased number of COVID-19 cases, causing the No. 9 Badgers’ game against Nebraska on Saturday to be canceled.

The game will not be rescheduled.

As of Wednesday morning, 12 people within the program had tested positive for the coronavirus in the past five days. That total includes six student-athletes and six staff members, including head coach Paul Chryst.

“This morning I received the news that I had tested positive via a PCR test I took yesterday,” Chryst said in a statement released by the university on Wednesday. “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 university said the decision to pause team activities was made jointly by athletics director Barry Alvarez and chancellor Rebecca Blank.

“We have said from the beginning that the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members comes first,” 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.”

Earlier this week, sources told ESPN that Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz had his COVID-19 positive test confirmed and would be out a minimum of 21 days.

Mertz, who starred in Wisconsin’s season-opening win over Illinois last Friday, had an antigen test come back positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. He had a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that confirmed the result Monday.

Big Ten policy requires any player who tests positive for COVID-19 to miss at least 21 days and undergo cardiac screening before being cleared to return.

Third-string quarterback Chase Wolf also tested positive, according to sources, confirming a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. If Wolf’s positive test was confirmed, he also would miss a minimum of 21 days before returning to action.

Wisconsin’s next scheduled game is at home against Purdue on Nov. 7.

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.

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