COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nearly one-third of the the Big Ten’s football teams are wondering if they will play a game Saturday due to coronavirus issues.
Those are the cases we know about, anyway. Could be more. Every day means a new batch of tests throughout the players and staff of each program.
The Big Ten practically screamed “bring it on” when it resumed its season Oct. 24. Its medical committee respected COVID-19 as much as it feared it. The virus is a formidable opponent, and to beat it, the league deployed diligence, strategy and resources.
Then games started, and the Big Ten immediately began trending in the wrong direction.
Wisconsin shut down operations, forcing cancellation of last Saturday’s scheduled game at Nebraska. Illinois, which opened the season against the Badgers, began reporting positives late last week. Now Purdue and Minnesota wait to find out if the Badgers and Illini can play Saturday.
The Boilermakers opened the season without coach Jeff Brohm and other staff members due to the virus as well.
When the Big Ten affirmed its original decision to cancel the season, Commissioner Kevin Warren famously said that decision “will not be revisited.” Revisited, however, it was, which is how those first two weekends of games were played.
Will there be a third weekend, or a fifth? Considering how contentious the first shutdown became, would the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors entertain the thought of pulling the plug again for 2020? With apologies to Metallica, could the decision be re-revisited?
To do so, they would first need to admit many of the stated goals or advantages of their testing plan simply did not work.
Daily rapid testing would reduce outbreaks and cut down on contact tracing by ensure a “clean field.”
Well, they’re 0-for-2.
Wisconsin, up to 22 active cases as of Saturday morning, can safely be called an outbreak. Illinois reported only two positive cases the same day but sat several other players due to, yes, contact tracing.
We don’t yet know for certain that Wisconsin players infected Illinois players. The game was played in Madison, and the entire state’s case numbers have been rising. Champaign has faced its own virus problems.
Yet it cannot be ruled out that transmissions happened in that game. The daily rapid tests were supposed to catch all infections early and isolate affected players immediately. That strategy did not last through the first weekend.
“We do understand that there are ways to make sure we’ve got a clean playing field, and that’s what you want to make sure of,” Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson said on Sept 3 while speaking in favor of the resumption of play.
“If you’re going to have contact sports, you have to make sure that individuals that are doing that are not infectious, and