It’s been a weird 2020 for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who repeatedly protested the Big Ten’s initial decision to not play this fall, had head coach Scott Frost (seen above talking to Ohio State cornerback Sevyn Banks Saturday) suggest they might join another conference for one year (not actually possible), saw players sue the conference, and then complained about their schedule once the Big Ten reversed course. And it’s getting stranger still.
This week’s Wisconsin-Nebraska game was officially cancelled Wednesday thanks to six Badgers’ players (including first-string quarterback Graham Mertz and backup Chase Wolf) and six staffers (including head coach Paul Chryst) testing positive for COVID-19 and the Badgers putting their whole football program on pause as a result. That cancellation leads to a no contest result, as per Big Ten rules. But Nebraska’s official radio account (@HuskerSports) put out a poll Wednesday night asking Husker fans if they thought the game would be cancelled if the situation was reversed. (Update: after a couple of hours, they took down the poll. A screenshot with results as of 9 p.m. Eastern is below.)
This feels like quite the messaging choice from Nebraska’s official radio account, leaning into the conspiracy theories that the conference is out to get them. It seems pretty hard to imagine that the Huskers would have been forced to play following a similar wave of positive tests, especially as the conference protocols permit cancellation at rolling team player positivity rates between two and five percent and team population positivity rates between 3.5 percent and 7.5 percent, and demand it if those rates go above five percent and 7.5 percent respectively (which the Badgers were approaching).
And this hardly feels like Wisconsin ducking Nebraska. Badgers’ head coach Chryst was “confident going forward” as recently as Monday. And even if the Badgers had lost their top two quarterbacks, they might still have beaten the Huskers (Wisconsin put up a 45-7 win over Illinois last week, while Nebraska looked terrible in a 52-17 loss to Ohio State). So it’s certainly an interesting choice for Nebraska’s radio account to put out a poll giving fans the option to vote for this being yet one more supposed conspiracy against them, rather than a reasonable precaution after Wisconsin’s testing numbers. (Oh, and the state of Nebraska currently has 21.8 percent positivity rates on their COVID-19 testing, so this may wind up being an issue for their team as well before too long.) And it’s interesting how much this contrasts with the messaging from the actual athletic department account, whose most recent tweet is promoting a t-shirt promoting wearing masks:
? Stop the Spread
? Go Big Red
Our official 2020 tee is on sale now.
Available all over Lincoln + online. ⤵️
— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) October 27, 2020
And this led to a lot of people making fun of the @HuskerSports account and the Huskers generally:
Thank you for joining the Big Ten so we always have someone to point and laugh at
— Farmer Jones (@thefarmerjones) October 29, 2020
— SLAIN KIFFIN (@peterberkes) October 29, 2020
— Danny Noonan (@dkviper) October 29, 2020
Just leave the Big Ten. This is embarrassing
— Sean O’Leary (@stholeary) October 29, 2020
is nebraska okay https://t.co/R5ciGVE38Y
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) October 29, 2020
Life As a Football Victim, Vol. 232: https://t.co/52cVA53a45
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) October 29, 2020
Good to see that Nebraska will keep taking the L even after games are canceled. https://t.co/kFDUa8CWP9
— Ben (@ben_hamin12) October 29, 2020
So that’s all going great for them.
[Photo from Joseph Maiorana/USA Today Sports]