COVID-19 causes Gophers to cancel game with No. 18 Wisconsin

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COVID-19 causes Gophers to cancel game with No. 18 Wisconsin

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For the first time in 114 years, the Minnesota-Wisconsin game has been bumped off the schedule.

Minnesota called off its annual battle with Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan’s Axe — which was slated for Saturday afternoon — due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases within the program. The decision made Tuesday by Minnesota will also likely make the 18th-ranked Badgers ineligible for the Big Ten championship game, because of two earlier canceled games.

Utah’s game against Arizona State — scheduled for Sunday — was also added Tuesday to the cancellation list because the Sun Devils still don’t have enough scholarship players available due to numerous COVID-19 cases that includes coach Herm Edwards.

By the end of the day, Utah was rescheduled to play Washington on Saturday. The Huskies had their scheduled game with Washington State canceled last Sunday.

No. 24 Tulsa’s game on Saturday against Houston also was postponed because of Houston’s COVID-19 issues.

Ten scheduled games this week involving FBS teams have been postponed or canceled. The Minnesota-Wisconsin game and the Utah-Arizona State game won’t be made up. Tulsa and Houston have no common open dates left and will only be able to reschedule the game if neither team is in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Dec. 19.

Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle and president Joan Gabel made the decision at the recommendation of athletic medical director Dr. Brad Nelson, who’s on the conference’s COVID-19 task force, after consultation with Big Ten officials.

Minnesota said nine players and six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last five days. There were additional presumptive positive tests that turned up Wednesday from daily antigen testing, with the program awaiting confirmation of those results.

Coyle spoke several times this week with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez about what the Badgers went through with their cancellations.

“Disappointment is a good word,” Coyle said, later adding: “It’s something that none of us can control. The virus remains undefeated. We just have to do everything we can to make sure that our student athletes and our coaches and staff are safe as possible.”

According to Big Ten protocols this season, teams must play at least six games to be eligible for the conference championship game on Dec. 19. If the average number of league games played by all Big Ten teams is below six, programs must play no less than two fewer league games than that average to be eligible.

Wisconsin (2-1) has only two games remaining on its schedule and won’t reach the six-game minimum. The Badgers dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this season that caused them to call off scheduled games with Nebraska and Purdue.

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