For the first time in 114 years, the Gophers and Badgers will not play football.
The team’s scheduled game at Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 28, will not be played and will not be rescheduled, per Big Ten policy for this season. The game will be ruled a no contest.
The decision to cancel all football activities was made by Athletic Director Mark Coyle, President Joan Gabel and Gopher Athletics’ Medical Director Dr. Brad Nelson after consulting with the Big Ten Conference.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has always been our main priority,” said Coyle. “We have experienced an increase in positive cases recently and have made the responsible decision to pause team activities. We will continue to rely on the guidance of our medical experts as we navigate the next several days. We are doing everything we possibly can to miss the fewest amount of days possible. Our goal is to be healthy enough and ready to compete on December 5 against Northwestern.”
It's actually worse news for Wisconsin, as they've already scratched two games due to their own COVID issues earlier this season. That means the Badgers will not be eligible to play for the Big 10 title game. The conference requires at least six games be played to be eligible and the Badgers now can only play a maximum of five.
Nine student-athletes and six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last five days for the U of M. There were additional presumptive positive tests today and the program is awaiting confirmation of those results.
“This is the right decision,” said Nelson, the department’s medical director. “There was a sudden increase in positive cases and this pause will allow the team to focus on stopping the spread of the virus.”
“The health and safety of our student-athletes will always come first,” said head coach P.J. Fleck. “Like almost every program in the country, we have been affected on some level by COVID-19 every week this season, but these last few days have resulted in more cases than we have previously seen.
“I am disappointed for our student-athletes and our fans that we will not be able to compete on Saturday, but we need to focus on the health of our student-athletes and staff, which means stopping the spread of the virus. I support the decision made by our administration and medical professionals in consultation with the Big Ten Conference, and I want to thank our athletic trainers and team doctors for everything they are doing to support our program. We will return when it is determined safe to do so by medical experts.”
Coyle told News Talk 830 WCCO’s Dave Lee Tuesday morning they were hopeful to be able to play the game while still waiting for some test results. The team held virtual meetings Tuesday while waiting for news on what the rest of the week would look like.
"We follow those daily testing protocols that we do every day and obviously, we've seen an uptick just like our community," Coyle said. "We've seen an uptick and some of the positives around our program.”
According to the Big Ten rules set out at the start of this shortened season, COVID requires a player that tests positive to sit out for 21 days. For teams, if the positivity rate is greater than 5% and its population — including coaches and on-field staff — is greater than 7.5%, the game will be canceled and considered a no contest. In that case, neither team would get the win or loss.
The Gophers had been coming off a win over Purdue while Wisconsin lost at Northwestern. Now, both teams will watch from the sidelines this weekend.