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Minnesota football pauses activities, cancels Wisconsin game after positive COVID-19 tests

COVID-19 has put the brakes on the Gophers’ football season

NCAA Football: Iowa at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers announced Tuesday evening that Saturday’s game against the Wisconsin Badgers will no longer be played due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the team.

The Gophers were without 22 players for Friday night’s game against Purdue due to a combination of positive COVID-19 tests, contact tracing, and injuries. It was announced Monday evening that Minnesota would not hold in-person practice on Tuesday due to presumptive positive COVID-19 tests, with the hope that the team would be able to return to practice on Wednesday.

Here is the full official statement from the University of Minnesota:

The University of Minnesota football team will pause all team-related activities as it responds to positive COVID-19 cases in the program.

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 pause football activities was made by Director of Athletics 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.”

Nine student-athletes and six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last five days. 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.”

In addition to the Big Ten’s established daily antigen testing, Minnesota will also implement PCR testing two times each week for members of the football program as it works to return to the field.

“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.”

Minnesota and Wisconsin have played every year since 1890, with the lone exception of 1906. The cancellation of Saturday’s game snaps a streak of 113 consecutive contests played in the rivalry series. This also marks the third cancellation of the season for Wisconsin, dropping them below the six-game threshold required to be eligible for the Big Ten Championship.

The Gophers’ next game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5 at home against No. 11-ranked Northwestern, and the Badgers are set to host the No. 12-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.