No. 9 Wisconsin has paused all team-related activities for at least seven days due to an elevated number of COVID-19 cases within the program. As a result, the Oct. 31 game at Nebraska has been canceled and will not be made up at a later date, Wisconsin announced on Wednesday. One week into the Big Ten's 2020 schedule, it becomes the first game to be canceled.
A release from the university states that a total of 12 people within the program tested positive for COVID-19 in the past five days. Among them are six student-athletes and six staff members, including 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. "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."
Chryst is the 10th FBS head coach to have tested positive for the virus. That number does not include Alabama coach Nick Saban, who had a false positive earlier this month.
CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported earlier in the week that Badgers starting quarterback Graham Mertz had tested positive for the virus. Additionally, redshirt sophomore backup Chase Wolf reportedly tested positive for the virus, though he was awaiting further confirmation. Per Big Ten protocols, those who test positive for the coronavirus will be required to sit out for three weeks before being able to return to play. Wisconsin does not release specific information about players who have tested positive for the virus. If Mertz and Wolf were out, fourth-stringer Danny Vanden Boom was expected to be the next man up.
Assuming Wisconsin had enough players to play (53 is the threshold, 7 OL, 4 DL, 1 QB) then this was a red/red situation per Big Ten protocols. Team test positivity rate of greater than 5% and population positivity rate (region, Dane County) of more than 7.5%.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) October 28, 2020
Wisconsin's next game is Nov. 7 at home against Purdue. Because of the Big Ten's condensed, conference-only schedule with zero open weeks, there is no flexibility if games cannot be played.
"We have said from the beginning that the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members comes first," 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."
Wisconsin as a state has become a hotbed for COVID-19 cases, with Gov. Tony Evers calling the spike "an urgent crisis" and "imminent risk." The state's seven-day average of new cases has increased by more than 400%, according to state health officials.