IU-Purdue football called off due to COVID-19 test results

The battle for the Old Oaken Bucket will not be had in 2020.

Indiana and Purdue announced Wednesday that this weekend’s football game is off because of elevated COVID-19 positives within both programs.

IU athletic director Scott Dolson and Purdue AD Mike Bobinski released a joint statement, acknowledging that the game won’t be played.

“We’re certainly disappointed that we had to cancel the Old Oaken Bucket game. We both understand the history and tradition of one of the best rivalries in college football, but the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff is our primary priority,” the statement read. “We will continue to monitor the situation on both campuses and listen to the advice of our medical professionals.”

This will be the first time since the 1918 and 1919 seasons that the rivalry matchup will not be played. IU won the Old Oaken Bucket back from the Boilermakers last season in a double-overtime contest, 44-41, which means the rivalry trophy should be staying in Bloomington for another year.

IU announced Tuesday it was pausing all team-related activities because of a rise in positive COVID tests. Purdue had canceled practice that day, as well, because of positive tests.

Big Ten athletes are screened daily for COVID-19 via antigen tests. All of IU’s “Tier 1” players, coaches, and staff underwent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which is considered a more precise, confirmatory screening, as part of the stoppage.

“The health and safety of our students, coaches and staff is paramount,” Dolson said in a statement Tuesday. “In consultation with our medical experts, we decided this is the appropriate decision at this time. We will continue to assess the situation moving forward.”

Before this week, the No. 8 Hoosiers (6-1) had been one of just four teams in the Big Ten to play all of their scheduled games. That number will be brought down to just three, Penn State, Iowa, and Rutgers. Michigan, who missed its first game last week, will also not play Ohio State this week because of positive COVID-19 tests.

IU was just one conference win away from setting a new program mark for most Big Ten wins in a season. This season’s 6-1 start was the program’s best since 1967.

The Hoosiers currently sit in second place in the Big Ten’s East Division, which could have put them in a position to play in the conference’s championship game. OSU (5-0), the East’s only undefeated team, was one game short of the Big Ten’s previously prescribed six-game threshold for eligibility in the title clash.

But the conference announced Wednesday it was eliminating the six-game requirement, and now IU isn’t active for its Week 8 game.

“Coach Allen and I are proud of this team and the success we have had so far this season. We are one of only two teams in the country with three Top-25 victories and have matched a program record for Big Ten wins,” Dolson said in another statement Wednesday. “Although we understand the conference’s decision, we are disappointed. From the start of the year, we have said we can only control what we can control.”

“We had a chance to earn our spot in the Big Ten Championship Game,” Dolson continued, referencing IU’s 42-35 loss at OSU, “but ultimately fell a touchdown short on the road against a great Ohio State team. We look forward to resuming activities and completing one of the best seasons in our school’s history.”

IU has not released specific testing numbers related to the most recent COVID-19 spike. It’s unclear at this time if the Hoosiers will be active for the Big Ten’s week of crossover games, given that athletes who test positive are required by the conference to sit out 21 days from competition.

The Big Ten uses multiple metrics to determine whether teams can practice or play. A testing positivity rate of greater than 5 percent was set as the threshold for halting competition. The other metric is a “population” rate, where if greater than 7.5 percent of people within a program’s testing “bubble” are positive for COVID-19, that team will not be able to practice or play games.

In most cases, Big Ten football programs that have halted activity because of COVID-19 have missed two weeks. Maryland missed contests with OSU and Michigan State because of elevated positive tests. Minnesota sat out consecutive games against Wisconsin and Northwestern. Wisconsin missed matchups with Nebraska and Purdue (2-4) after a spike.

OSU, on the other hand, missed just one game against Illinois because of elevated COVID-19 positives within its own program, so it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

While this is IU football’s first in-season halt of activities, it’s not the program’s first since the onset of the pandemic. IU shut down offseason workouts for two weeks in late July because of elevated COVID-19 positives in the program.

IU almost made it through the Big Ten’s scheduled eight-game slate without a canceled game. Now, sitting at No. 12 in the college football playoff committee’s rankings, it’s an open question whether the Hoosiers will play before an upcoming bowl.

Nationally, the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened. New reported cases have exceeded 200,000 per day in the U.S. in recent weeks. In seven out of the last nine days, more than 2,000 Americans have died each day.

26 comments

  1. Ok. Perspective…keeping things in perspective…which is a lost virtue in today’s world…it has always been hard to maintain perspective.

  2. One day, when the science is clear, we’ll look back on these decisions and shake our collective heads at the decisions made because of the COVID testing. Just yesterday I read a news report that indicated that the current methods and procedures for testing are highly inconsistent and “may” be causing over 50% of the tests to be false-positives. It helps explain why so many people who have tested positive for COVID never experience any symptoms, and why people who test positive once and then later, test negative two or three times. But until we improve the testing methodology, our leaders have no choice but to take these precautions.

    Wow, does Jack Tuttle have bad luck, or what? He, of all IU’s FB players, must be terribly disappointed. Just when he’s getting his chance to play, prove his skills and progress through the learning curve, his opportunity is delayed due to circumstances beyond his control. While the majority of his teammates probably benefit from the extra time to rest and recuperate, losing the experience this game would have provided is a detriment to Tuttle. I feel bad for him.

    Lastly, as far as I’m concerned, Purdue would have been IU’s 7th win this season, making this the most successful season since 1967. Regardless, I hope IU gets to play two more games, wins them both and removes all doubt about the trajectory that Tom Allen has put IU FB on.

  3. Not busting your balls here Podunker but IMO Penix has worse luck. Do feel really bad for Tuttle too though. QB battle in the spring is going to something else. We may be looking at something along the lines of Tua v. Jalen Hurts at Alabama level competition. Feels so weird to have an embarrassment of riches. So many new emotions around IU football this year. Complaining about getting robbed with a 12th ranking. Who’d a thunk.

  4. I am sorry to hear this but with PU’s earlier statement it was clear IU wouldn’t get to play the bucket game. I hope IU’s cases are small and doesn’t stop them from playing the crossover game. This is IU’s most successful season since the ’67 season but in ways more successful than the “cardiac kids” had as this team controlled games except for the PSU and the OSU game. The ’67 tem won a number of games in the final drive or due to Isenbarger’s impromptu fake punt that gained a first down in the 4th quarter.

    With so many coming back next year, more than we know maybe, IU is on a trajectory to continue this season’s success in future years. I just hope we see an increase in recruiting bringing in top players with more speed and ability.

      1. The scheduled 9th game match up games by the East and West team facing each other based on their season record.

    1. I think our crossover game is very much up in the air at this point. Won’t say more but we managed to make it through a good portion of the abbreviated season in good shape, but the virus is very contagious, so it was probably on a matter of time. If we don’t play, the bowl game issue will come front and center as several bowls are quietly sending signals that they aren’t guaranteed to play. Our focus, especially if they don’t, is being granted the additional practices, even if cancellations occur. Those inquiries are already being evaluated by the NCAA.

  5. Pete, does Penix have bad luck or was it that his body was not physically mature enough to endure the rigors of Big Ten FB? I’m not sure, but I remember thinking Penix was very young (still 17) when he went through his first IU FB practice. He was either still 17 or had just turned 18 when he played in his first college game in the fall of 2018! And he was still very “slight” of build. Perhaps his bones and connective tissue had not had the chance to grow strong enough to absorb the physical punishment players at this level are subjected to? It may be a situation where his obvious talent and potential prevented people from seeing that his body needed more time to mature. It reminds me of another great IU athlete, Jay Edwards. Edwards claimed that his promising NBA career was cut short because his body was not strong/mature enough to handle the rigors of the NBA when he was drafted after his sophomore season at IU.

  6. Recent medical science suggests that children are inclined to suffer serious orthopedic injuries and have their athletic careers cut short because they’re subjecting their young bodies to too much intense competition (i.e., stress), too often, at too young an age, and without the appropriate amount of rest. The hypothesis highly technical, but it has to do with the affects of “inflammation.” It suggests that once children begin to suffer serious orthopedic injuries, even though surgery repairs the specific damage, their bodies a prone to stay on the injury track.

    No way Penix will be ready to compete during IU’s Spring Practices. He’ll be lucky if his knee is ready to go full speed during next summer’s camp.

  7. Good points Podunker. I agree about youth sports too. Too many athletes are specializing and not getting necessary rest which leads to injury as well.

  8. Yes, getting ahead…I think it will be J.T. at qb for 2021season. This is not about who is the number 1 or most talented. Rather, M.P. (not sure about seriousness of his injury/s status) will still be healing and on comeback status though it could be ready status but not near 100%. It might be in reality M.P. place will be # 2. For him reality might be unfortunate. (after a couple knee/leg/shoulder injuries by athletes who are injury prone often things are never what they once were or could have been). If something were to happen to J.T. which I think he will be fine (then it would be D.W. as T.A. said to him when J.T. was dinged let’s go this is what you came here for as a temporary fix).

  9. The severity of Penix’s injury will determine how soon he can get back on the field. Tuttle showed he is capable of being on the B1G stage in a big game. We didn’t get to see how much talent he has as IU took the approach to protect him and win the game against Wisconsin. The QB room isn’t bereft of talent even if Penix isn’t back by the beginning of the season. If not I hope he is ready later in the season to step in if the offense is struggling.

    Now if we could just do something about B1G championship game decision.

  10. The Indiana Governor news release stated that, “Indians is on fire with the COVID problems all 92 counties are either in t he highest red tier rating and orange rating, elective hospital services are on hold within the next few days. With all of the high COVID counts, my thoughts for Big Ten Football, play the championship game, if possible, forget playing the cross over games, let the Bowl selection committees sort out who will advance into the bowl games, let the also ran programs shut down and call it a season. There no need for the teams that aren’t going to a post season bowl, drag this season out, do you see any need for bottom tier big ten teams expose their players for a meaningless game? I don’t think so, be glad yor had a football season in 2020, I see four big ten teams in the running for meaningful bowl game, how can these lesser bowl games be played, no fan base will travel to the site, low TV revenues time for a reality check.

  11. I U South, while I appreciate your concern and can see your logic, if you apply it across the board, the Big Ten and NCAA might as well cancel the college Basketball season right now, or at least delay it until COVID is brought under control. As far as the risk to college athletes, it is virtually zero and far less serious to college-aged adults than the regular old flu. The real risk is them spreading COVID to others, like coaches, officials, their family members, etc., who may be far more vulnerable to the affects of the virus.

    Either way you turn, this is just a huge mess.

  12. Hope we get to play at least one more game (if not two). Either way, though, this has been an historic IU football season. The momentum of this year, more games or not, will not be for nothing, IMO. i fully expect IU to build even more off this season, whether or not more games materialize.

  13. IU football has actually been a lot of exciting fun to watch this year because game plans were successfully competitively executed. (the way players played and competed). The 6 wins were icing on the cake.

  14. You just never know…It all looks promising, but IU Football could go into another 50 year drought.
    I still believe we should have been playing in the Big Championship. You make rules. You keep rules.
    We defeated PSU, Michigan and Wisconsin. We lost by a TD at OSU. It’s arguable that we are the best team even before the rule change.

  15. True justice would be NW beating OSU.
    Then the BCS would really be stuck. Go fighting Fitz’s.

  16. Brad, it’s the Big TenConference that’s pushing the Ohio band wagon, as Ohio State is the only team in the conference with the top four ranking that has a chance for the four team play off. The BCS doesn’t give damn aboutOhio State they take the four teams that are ranked in the top four Ohio State Isa 3 or 4. Seed.

  17. Irony of ironies that P. Ramsey will be playing for the B1G title while IU is not. And seeing how IUFB is the biggest loser of the B1G moving the title game goal posts, IU should get a special dispensation and get to play Purdue for the crossover game instead of the #2 West matchup. Of course, there may not be a crossover game for either IU or the subcutaneous pus collections. Heck, there may not even be a conf. title game.

  18. No conference championship game is a possibility.
    The conference modified a rule called the “Phil Dickens Rule” and the damages puts IU in its place. Not only did IU meet the rule requirements to play in the big ten championship game but punished for doing so. The IU effort; leadership, organization, play, coaching were punished and damaged. 1. Big ten leadership waited to long to start delayed season 2. Big ten leadership when starting season did not leave any or enough wiggle room in schedule 3. Big ten leadership did not have the foresight or forethought to have as part of requirements or rules for this particular season flexibility to address the current situation addressing requirements to play in championship game. Not only does IU lose out to play big ten championship game. It presents a negative image towards IU as second class citizen. 1. Potentially effects recruiting negatively (the way they look at IU football program) 2. Potentially gives negative perception of IU football program as second class. 3. Missed opportunity for national tv exposure.
    4. Potentially partially negating part of the hard work T.A. and IU football program has put in. Would have requirements or rules been changed if situation was reversed??? Not just IU but any other big ten conference program except for maybe Michigan and Penn State. Maybe Wisconsin. However, IU controlled their own destiny JUST BEAT Ohio State. So close…a couple fumbles and a pass interception…the opportunity was there or would it have been another reason? Would have OSU been able to shift play into a higher gear or lose their transmission?

    1. t: Right on. Speaking of Dickens, it was Woodrow Hayes making unfounded allegations in 1957 that ended up with the most deamaging ‘death penalty’ in the history of collegiate athletics. Move forward 63 years. IU hasn’t been declared the league champion for 53 years. What happens? The ‘rules’ are changed after the fact to pull the rug out from under a program that has this opportunity less often than sighting Haley’s comet. Brutal. Selfish. Corrupt. The irony, OSU would have likely been invited to the 4 team dance anyway. As it is, IU has been punished for being the only team in the league with 6 wins. On top of that, the BCS selection committee’s placement if IU at number 12, even after doing something the current 5 thru 11 likely couldn’t do. Beat Wisconsin in Madison. If I were Scott Dolson, I’d consider suing the lame leadership in the commissioner’s office and another lawsuit against the BCS for financial damages for their biased, obvious hatred for IU’s football program.
      In court for instance, they could try and justify Iowa State’s position with a 17 point loss to the Univ of Louisiana. Additionally, Barta talked about IU’s lack of ranked wins. Penn St was #8, Wisconsin was #16 and Michigan was #23 when they played Indiana. Barta’s the troubled AD at Iowa,…while the committee (or maybe they should be referred to as the ‘Politburo’) has lots of BIG 10 influence. Thanks guys. Maybe down the road IU will be in a position to ‘return the favor’. I hope N’western wins by 3 touchdowns.

  19. Or maybe Karma results in an opposite affect regarding high level recruiting/recruits/their families because of IU football image that coach T.A. has been a leader of. Maybe, it actually works in favor for a overall higher IU football program image because of this entire 2020 football season led by coach T.A., staff. and players.

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