It turns out the Ohio State Buckeyes (No. 3 in the AP Top 25, No. 4 in the CFP rankings) will not be playing the Illinois Fighting Illini this weekend after all. Positive COVID-19 tests at Ohio State this week, including one from head coach Ryan Day (seen above talking to officials Oct. 31 against Purdue), had already put this game in doubt, and had led to a decision to reschedule the Ohio State team flight for Saturday morning so further PCR coronavirus testing could be conducted Friday afternoon and evening. That in turn led to the game being pushed back to a 3:30 p.m. Eastern start from a noon Eastern start. And late Saturday night, the game was officially canceled, as ESPN’s Heather Dinich relays:
No. 4 Ohio State on Friday night canceled Saturday’s game at Illinois, citing more positive tests for COVID-19 in the Buckeyes’ program.
In addition, Ohio State paused all team-related football activities.
…“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” athletic director Gene Smith said. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”
It’s unclear at this point how many further positive tests came back Friday evening, but some certainly did. As discussed back when Nebraska’s official radio account was trying to imply that Big Ten rules wouldn’t apply to their team, the Big Ten rules are that cancellation (and a no contest result) is permissible at rolling team player positivity rates between two and five percent and team population positivity rates between 3.5 percent and 7.5 percent. Cancellation is demanded if those rates go above five percent and 7.5 percent respectively. So it seems that the Buckeyes at least hit the cancellation is permissible level, and it’s possible that they hit the cancellation-demanded level.
That may lead to some interesting discussions ahead, as Big Ten protocols mean confirmed positive tests have players out for 21 days. Ohio State’s game against Michigan State next Saturday certainly could be under threat as well, and even their famed rivalry game with Michigan on Dec. 12 may not be certain to go ahead. If either or both of those games goes down, Ohio State (currently 4-0; they lost a game earlier this year thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak at Maryland) wouldn’t appear to be eligible for the Big Ten championship game, with the conference currently requiring a minimum of six games played to be eligible for that. However, it’s notable that the College Football Playoff itself has no minimums for games played.
This also leaves a bit of a hole for Fox’s college football coverage Saturday. The game was originally set for FS1 at noon ET (when the Fox broadcast network has Texas Tech-Oklahoma State), but there was some online discussion that it might be swapped to the Fox broadcast network after the shift to a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff, with San Jose State-Boise State (set for a 4 p.m. ET kickoff on Fox) heading to FS1 instead. Now, that San Jose State-Boise State game will certainly stay where is, and FS1 has a gap to fill at noon ET. Unlike ESPN, they don’t have a million other games to pull from, so that may wind up as just reruns of studio programming.
[ESPN; photo from Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch-USA Today Network]