Wisconsin’s football team has paused all team-related activities for at least seven days because of an increased number of COVID-19 cases, causing the No. 9 Badgers‘ game against Nebraska on Saturday to be canceled.
The game will not be rescheduled.
As of Wednesday morning, 12 people within the program had tested positive for the coronavirus in the past five days. That total includes six student-athletes and six staff members, including head coach Paul Chryst.
“This morning I received the news that I had tested positive via a PCR test I took yesterday,” Chryst said in a statement released by the university on Wednesday. “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.
“I am disappointed for our players and coaching staff who put so much into preparing to play each week. But the safety of everyone in our program has to be our top priority and I support the decision made to pause our team activities.”
The university said the decision to pause team activities was made jointly by athletic director Barry Alvarez and chancellor Rebecca Blank.
“We have said from the beginning that the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members comes first,” Alvarez said in a statement. “Over the past several days, we have seen a rising number of student-athletes and staff contract the virus. The responsible thing for us to do is to pause football-related activities for at least seven days.”
Mertz, who starred in Wisconsin’s season-opening win over Illinois on Friday, had an antigen test come back positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. He had a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that confirmed the result Monday.
Big Ten policy requires any player who tests positive for COVID-19 to miss at least 21 days and undergo cardiac screening before being cleared to return.
Third-string quarterback Chase Wolf also tested positive, according to sources, confirming a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. If Wolf’s positive test was confirmed, he also would miss a minimum of 21 days before returning to action.
An Illinois spokesperson said he’s not aware of any positive tests for the Illini as of Wednesday morning
Wisconsin’s next scheduled game is at home against Purdue on Nov. 7.
The Big Ten requires teams to play at least six games to qualify for the division championship, unless the average number of games by all league teams drops below six. In that case, teams must play no less than two fewer games than the average number by all teams to be considered for the division championship.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.