MADISON, Wis. – The pandemic hit Big Ten football just two weeks into its season Wednesday as No. 9 Wisconsin canceled its game at Nebraska and paused team activities for at least a week after a dozen people in the program — including coach Paul Chryst — tested positive for COVID-19.
Athletic director Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Rebecca Blank made the decision in consultation with Big Ten officials. Alvarez said the team had only one positive test two days before Friday's season-opening 45-7 victory over Illinois and 12 positive tests afterward.
“With the number of positives in that short a timeline, the chancellor and I felt we have an issue, that we have to make this decision and get our arms around this and control the COVID and virus now before it got out of hand,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said Wisconsin had reached the “orange/red” levels in the Big Ten protocols based on its rate of positive tests. The Big Ten says teams in that area must proceed with caution; among the steps is considering the viability of playing.
Chryst said he underwent a polymerase chain reaction test Tuesday and learned Wednesday morning he was positive.
“Physically, I feel good,” Chryst said. “Certainly disappointed for what's happened. ... As we've gone about this, we were wanting the opportunity, and our players were wanting the opportunity to play. To not have that opportunity, and I know why and I support and understand why we're not (playing), but when you have a hand in it ... that's where there's disappointment.”
School officials said six players and six staff members tested positive over the last five days. Additional test results were pending.
Wisconsin becomes the first Big Ten school to cancel a game since the league started its pandemic-delayed season five days ago. It was the 37th game involving Football Bowl Subdivision teams to be postponed or canceled since Aug. 6.