UW Football head coach Paul Chryst speaks in a virtual press conference after it was announced the Badgers would be returning to the field. (Screenshot | UW Athletics video)
The University of Wisconsin football team expects to be back on the field this weekend after two games were cancelled due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the team’s players and staff.
The team announced Monday it expected to play Saturday’s game against the University of Michigan after having no players or staff test positive for the virus since Nov. 7. The team currently has five active COVID-19 cases — two players and three staff members — and has had 17 players and 13 staff members test positive since Oct. 21.
Because of the outbreak, UW cancelled its scheduled games against Nebraska and Purdue. The team returned to practice on Friday, head coach Paul Chryst said in a news conference. Chryst was one of the staff members that tested positive.
“We had no new positives on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was a great sign,” UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said in a news release. “That’s when we started thinking Friday could be a day we could get the team together to start doing things with an eye towards having a regular practice week this week. So we were cautious on Friday and Saturday, split guys into groups, and just did conditioning. The team then got together and held its regular Monday practice this morning.”
“We feel confident that we have a handle on the situation and are excited to play this week at Michigan,” Alvarez added. “As we have done throughout, we will continue to monitor our testing results and base our decision on those results.”
While a number of players are no longer active cases, Big Ten Conference protocols dictate that a player cannot return to the field for 21 days after a positive test. For the Badgers that means any player who tested positive after Oct. 24 cannot play.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz, who set school records in the season opener against Illinois, could be eligible to play against Michigan after reportedly testing positive Oct. 24.
Wisconsin is so far the only Big Ten team to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak.
The team is scheduled to play Michigan at 6:30 p.m. in Ann Arbor.
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