Virus forces Gophers to cancel game vs. No. 16 Northwestern

By The Associated Press

Minnesota announced Monday it has called off this weekend’s game against No. 16 Northwestern, the second straight cancellation for the Gophers due to a spike in COVID-19 cases within the program.

University officials made the decision in consultation with the Big Ten after seven additional positive cases were confirmed. The Wildcats, who lead the West Division by one game at 5-1, were scheduled to play Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium after taking their first loss of the season at Michigan State.

Since Nov. 19, Minnesota has turned up 47 positive cases — 21 players and 26 staff members. The Gophers paused all team activities six days ago, when they canceled the annual rivalry game at Wisconsin. Minnesota also said it will hold all meetings virtually for the rest of the season. Left on the schedule is a game at Nebraska on Dec. 12 and a to-be-determined cross-division opponent on Dec. 19.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff continues to be our main priority,” athletic director Mark Coyle said. “The last couple of days have shown a decrease in positive cases, but not to the point where we are able to return to competition.”

Coyle said the Gophers are aiming to play the Huskers as scheduled. The university is working with the state health department to isolate and treat the individuals who’ve tested positive. The next case update will be provided on Thursday. Last week, Minnesota initiated the implementation of additional testing, beyond the conference’s established protocols.

The virus has done a number on the Big Ten race, with six cancellations so far. The 18th-ranked Badgers have likely become ineligible for the conference championship because they haven’t played enough games. East Division leader and third-ranked Ohio State, which had to cancel its last game against Illinois, would be in danger of that fate with one more cancellation.

By The Associated Press