Badgers cancel Nebraska game, pause practices after 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases

Head coach Paul Chryst says he's not experiencing symptoms after testing positive

Camp Randall Stadium on Friday, Oct. 23, before the Badgers’ first game of the season. The Badgers' game against Nebraska was canceled because of COVID-19 cases among players and staff. (Angela Major / WPR)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has paused football activities for at least seven days after a spike in positive coronavirus tests, according to the university's Athletic Department.

That means the Badgers won’t face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday, Oct. 31, and the game won’t be rescheduled.

In the last five days, six players and six staff members tested positive for the coronavirus — and more tests are pending, according to the Athletic Department. The confirmed cases include head coach Paul Chryst.

"I informed my staff and the team this morning and am currently isolating at home. I had not been experiencing any symptoms and feel good as of this morning," Chryst said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Reports this week from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal indicate starting quarterback Graham Mertz also tested positive. The Athletic Department said this week it doesn't plan to share test results for individual players, citing health privacy.


Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and the Big Ten collaborated on the decision to pause the football program.

"We thank and appreciate our athletic trainers, doctors and public health staff who are supporting the health and safety of our student-athletes and program," Blank said in a statement.

Wisconsin beat Illinois in the first game of the Big Ten season Friday. Mertz was sensational, completing 20 of 21 passes and throwing for five touchdowns. The Badgers are ranked No. 9.

Their next scheduled game is Nov. 7 against Purdue.

The announcement is a blow for the Big Ten, which announced in August it would cancel fall football amid the pandemic. The conference reversed its decision in September but set the strictest coronavirus protocols of any Power Five conference.

Players and coaches are tested daily. The Big Ten requires teams to pause football activities for seven days if 5% of its tests come back positive and more than 7.5% of essential personnel test positive, based on seven-day averages.

Coronavirus infections in Wisconsin are at an all-time high. On Tuesday, state health officials announced more than 5,000 new cases and asked residents to take the outbreak seriously. That was just one day after the state broke 200,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Dr. Omai Garner, director of clinical microbiology for the UCLA Health System, said it’s likely some coronavirus cases among players and staff are inevitable given the high number of COVID-19 cases in the Midwest.


At some point, high levels of community transmission could make it unsafe to play sports through the pandemic, despite precautions, he said.

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard locally on 91.3 KUWS-FM and at

Wisconsin Public Radio, Copyright 2020, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

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