In a video posted to the Badgers YouTube page in August, University of Wisconsin Athletics director Barry Alvarez announced that UW Athletics teams would not be participating in a fall season, citing concerns for player health.
“I have to tell you right now I feel sick. I actually feel sick to my stomach, and I’ve felt that way for the last two months,” Alvarez said while standing in front of an empty Camp Randall stadium.
“We can’t go forward and not feel comfortable with the safety of our student athletes. In the end, there were too many questions that we couldn’t answer and still we’re looking for those answers. We felt that it was important for us to make the decision not to play this fall.”
That decision was promptly overturned about a month later, after the Big Ten Conference announced it would be returning for a fall season. UW agreed to participate in the season despite reports from Public Health Madison Dane County that at least 42 Badgers players and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 in the months leading up to the announcement.
In the past five days, an additional twelve members of the Badgers football program — including head Coach Paul Chryst — have tested positive. And that count could continue to climb in coming days as, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, some test results are still pending.
Speaking with reporters earlier today, Alvarez said that only two other cases had been diagnosed on the team since they announced their return to a fall season. But, since their season kickoff last Friday, that number has spiked.
“Let’s take a look at the timeline,” Alvarez explained. “Our first month of testing and practice, we had one positive. We had one positive test Wednesday, prior to the [kickoff] game. Since the game, we’ve had twelve positive tests.”
The team has already cancelled its upcoming game against Nebraska, making it the first Big Ten team to cancel a game due to the coronavirus. They’ll also be pausing all in-person activities for the next seven days.
But, any player with a positive diagnosis will be off the field for at least three weeks, per the Big Ten’s COVID-19 protocols.
Chryst says that, physically, he feels fine. He received his positive diagnosis yesterday and went into quarantine away from other members of the Badgers team. He says that what really pains him is the sense of disappointment that the team won’t be able to take the field anytime soon.
“Physically, I feel good,” Chryst told reporters. “I’m certainly disappointed for what’s happened and throughout this whole thing, 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 why we’re not — but you know, when you have a hand in it, that’s where there’s disappointment.”
Alvarez says the team may also cancel their November 7th game against Purdue. Per the seven day off-the-field requirement established by the Big Ten, the team would be able to return to practice on November 4th at the earliest, giving them just three days to prepare.
Echoing a line that’s become a regular motto for UW football, Alvarez said the team’s leaders will make their decision to play Purdue based on what’s best for the players.
(Photo: Dave Adamson / Unsplash)