IU-Purdue football canceled a second time in 2020

Scheduled twice, canceled twice.

This time, it’s certain: Indiana and Purdue aren’t playing football in 2020.

A week after IU and Purdue’s regular-season matchup was canceled because of a rise in COVID-19 cases in both programs, a “champions week” contest scheduled between the two schools was likewise called off Tuesday.

IU coach Tom Allen said 28 cases of COVID-19 have emerged among players and coaches since the Hoosiers’ last game at Wisconsin. The Big Ten requires athletes sit out 21 days from competition following a positive test, but they can practice after two weeks, so Allen is optimistic all of his recently affected players will be back in time to prepare for and play in IU’s bowl game.

While there is more for the Hoosiers to look forward to in 2020, losing a rivalry matchup with Purdue did sting. Especially losing it twice.

“It’s like anything else that happens more than once, it’s twice as bad,” Allen said. “The first time … when the week started, we thought everything was going to be great, and, all of a sudden, it just went south fast. The second time, we’re hoping we can kind of figure this out and it was just not possible. Both sides came to the same conclusion.

“I guess it’s kind of par for the course for 2020. There has been a series of things that have happened and nobody really wanted to happen, and things get canceled that you look forward to. But the fact it was canceled, then rescheduled, then canceled again, it’s kind of like a double-whammy.”

This solidifies the absence of an IU-Purdue football game for the first time since the 1918 and 1919 seasons. The two rivals had otherwise played 100 consecutive contests without a gap in the series.

As they did last week, IU athletic director Scott Dolson and Purdue AD Mike Bobinski again released a joint statement:

“Upon the advice of our medical professionals and in following the guidelines and protocols established for this season, we are not able to play Friday. As we stated last week, we know the history and tradition of this great rivalry game and how much it means to our current students, alumni, and fans. Both universities worked extremely hard in an effort to play, but at this time it just isn’t possible.

“We are certainly disappointed that we cannot play in 2020, but look forward to seeing each other on the field next season and competing once again for the Old Oaken Bucket.”

For the Boilermakers (2-4), this could very well mark the end of their season. It’s not required for bowl teams to have a .500 record this season, so the postseason isn’t completely out of the question, but it’s unlikely.

IU, on the other hand, is almost certainly going to have bowl options. The Hoosiers (6-1) are currently ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls, putting them in the conversation for a prestigious “New Year’s Six” contest.

Despite IU’s COVID-19 cases, Allen said the Hoosiers were able to move forward Tuesday with some conditioning work in smaller groups or “cohorts” of unaffected players. All meetings this week have been virtual.

“The goal is to be able to systematically build off of that and put us in position to have a regular practice (this coming) Monday,” Allen said. “We feel like that will give us two full weeks of bowl prep. Feel good about that, feel good about those guys.

“Just trying to get this thing under control. It’s been tough. It’s affected a lot of our guys. It’s serious and it spreads fast.”

The players who have recently tested positive for COVID-19, Allen said, are in isolation and are only participating in meetings via Zoom. But they should get at least a week of in-person practice for the bowl. The Big Ten’s mandated 21-day off-period for COVID-positive athletes includes a built-in week for heart testing, but they can resume activity once they make it through the first two weeks.

“The timing was very important to have, because without it, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Allen said. “But because we have this amount of time between now and the bowl game, we expect to have all the guys that finished the season healthy, ready to play, will be able to play in the bowl game.”

Missing a final regular-season game does rob IU of a chance to set a new program record for conference wins in a season. The 2020 IU team will now have to settle for a six-win tie with the 1967 and ’87 squads.

But it was still a magnificent regular season for IU. Allen’s crew racked up three wins over top-25 teams, tying the 1945 squad’s program record. Those victories came over Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, three schools the Hoosiers had never defeated in the same season.

The fact that all of these feats were accomplished during a challenging season makes it all the more impressive.

“I think of a group staying together, believing, even though this is as hard as anything we’ve ever gone through, and still doing historic things together,” Allen said. “It’s a group that stayed together and believed together.”

Now, the Hoosiers wait.

On Sunday, IU learns its bowl assignment, and the Fiesta Bowl is a jewel that’s arguably within reach. Allen was asked specifically about the “New Year’s Six” and whether the Hoosiers deserve inclusion.

“Massive opportunity for us, at our fingertips,” Allen said. “But any bowl opportunity is going to be huge, and we haven’t won a bowl game here in a long, long time. That’s a very high goal that we have in our program, the next breakthrough opportunity for us to check off.

“Wherever that is, we’re going to be excited. But the New Year’s Six is prestigious, for sure, shows you are one of the top teams in the country. I do believe we’ve played to that level to be given that opportunity.”

8 comments

  1. It is disappointing but not unexpected that both schools had to cancel this game. It is such a shame since IU avoid the issue for so long and to get hit with it now and losing two game opportunities is sad. Now it is time to get healthy and find out which bowl game IU will play in.

    1. I think the next issue will be whether a bowl season beyond the CFP is even played. Universities are starting to unilaterally withdraw from bowl games, and it won’t be surprising if more follow suit.

  2. Not even any frustration now. Not surprising or unexpected. The bowl season:
    Games/Teams Played vs Games/Teams Canceled

  3. It would seem to me that a school walking away from a bowl game is like dousing a financial fire with gasoline! Ironic that this is happening during the same week the COVID vaccine is released to the public. I hope TA’s players and staff will remain disciplined in taking every possible measure to avoid the virus so that they can achieve their goal of winning a major bowl game.

  4. I U has a chance to play in it’s first major bowl, since the Rose Bowl, these games are scheduled for January 1 , today is Dec 15, I U doesn’t need to play in a meaningless game, team needs to get healthy and be ready for a real showcase moment game.

  5. You’re right I U South, but it’s very rewarding to watch IU beat Purdue, especially
    for those of us who have friends that are Purdue alumni or fans. Bragging rights are as good as gold, especially after having to eat sheep-dip for so many years.

  6. Since when. IU South, is the Old Oaken Bucket a meaningless game? On what planet? I, for one, was looking forward to an old-fashioned seal-clubbing this Saturday.

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