Minnesota has canceled its trip to Wisconsin this week for what would have been the 114th meeting between the schools in the longest continuous rivalry in major college football history.
As reported by ESPN, the Golden Gophers had nine student-athletes and six staff members test positive for COVID-19 within the past five days. There were additional presumptive positives tests Tuesday, and the program is awaiting confirmation of those results. For the Badgers, there have been as many cancellations as games this season, with Wisconsin having to bow out of meetings in consecutive weeks against Nebraska and Purdue due to COVID cases in its program.
Per Big Ten protocols, no canceled games will be made up.
The latest cancellation ends the longest uninterrupted series in history among schools competing in what's now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision, with Minnesota and Wisconsin having played 113 consecutive years from 1907 to 2019 — including during the influenza pandemic of 1918.
Wisconsin, which lost last week to Big Ten Conference West Division leader Northwestern, is now down to five regular-season games, and at this point would not be eligible to play in the Big Ten championship game. The conference mandated that a team must compete in at least six games to play in the title game this season.
If the average number of Big Ten games falls below six, then teams must play no fewer than two games below the Big Ten average to be considered for the league title. The champion will be determined in each division by its winning percentage, unless there is an unbalanced schedule because of the cancellation of games.
Minnesota had 20 players sit out because of a combination of injuries and COVID-19 issues for its 34-31 victory over Purdue on Friday. The Golden Gophers held a virtual practice on Monday.
According to a release from the school, the decision to pause football activities was made by Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle, president Joan Gabel and athletics medical director Dr. Brad Nelson after consulting with the Big Ten Conference.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has always been our main priority,” Coyle stated in the release, as reported by NBC affiliate KARE in Minneapolis. “We have experienced an increase in positive cases recently and have made the responsible decision to pause team activities. We will continue to rely on the guidance of our medical experts as we navigate the next several days. We are doing everything we possibly can to miss the fewest amount of days possible. Our goal is to be healthy enough and ready to compete on December 5 against Northwestern.”