IU football on pause due to increase in positive COVID-19 tests

Indiana football announced Tuesday it is pausing all team-related activities because of “an increase in COVID-19 cases within the program.”

No decision has been made about this weekend’s game with Purdue, according to a release. But the IU football team did not practice Tuesday morning and all “Tier 1” players, coaches, and staff underwent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

“The health and safety of our students, coaches and staff is paramount,” IU athletic director Scott Dolson said in a statement. “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.”

It’s yet another twist on a day when it was announced that the Ohio State-Michigan football game would not be played this weekend because of COVID test results at Michigan, while IU’s upcoming opponent, Purdue, also shut down its practices because of elevated COVID positives.

No. 8 IU (6-1) is one of just four Big Ten teams, including Michigan, Penn State, and Rutgers, to play all seven of their scheduled games to this point.

If the IU-Purdue game were to not be played this weekend, it would be the first time since the 1918 and ’19 campaigns that those two teams didn’t meet in a season.

Earlier in the day, IU was a topic of debate because of OSU’s cancelled game, which would hold the Buckeyes short of the conference’s previously set minimum of six games to enter the Big Ten title game. That would have made IU, the No. 2 team in the East Division, the next in line to play the West team’s top team for the crown. But even the conference’s own press release on the subject Tuesday clarified that modifications to the “participation requirements as well as tiebreakers” would be discussed, which could allow No. 3 OSU (5-0) a shot at the title.

Now the Hoosiers are on pause, too. It’s not the program’s first shutdown of activities since the onset of the pandemic, because IU had to halt offseson workouts in late July because of an increase in positive COVID-19 tests.

Prior to Tuesday, IU’s athletic department last provided a COVID-19 daily antigen testing update Oct. 24, shortly before the Hoosiers’ opener with Penn State. At that time, 4,843 tests had been administered between Sept. 17-Oct. 24 with just four positive results. It is unknown how many COVID-19 cases the IU football program had since then.

IU did not provide figures on how many positive COVID-19 results are included in this most recent spike.

This potentially brings to a pause a spectacular season for IU coach Tom Allen and his program. The Hoosiers have tied the program’s record for most conference wins in a season with six. Their 6-1 start to conference play is the program’s best start since 1967.

That opening win over then-No. 8 PSU launched IU into the polls, where the Hoosiers have remained for seven straight weeks, tying the program’s best streak. IU has been in the Associated Press top 10 four weeks, which is the most since the ’67 team was inside the top 10 for five.

But there have been challenges, as well. IU has played games without key contributors for long stretches, including left tackle Caleb Jones for three games, and defensive tackle Demarcus Elliott just this last week at Wisconsin. IU was also breaking in a new starting quarterback in Jack Tuttle last Saturday, following a season-ending ACL tear for Michael Penix Jr. IU also lost senior husky Marcelino Ball to an ACL tear before the season started.

As the Hoosiers prepared for a matchup with rival Purdue, Allen said it was a “legitimate concern” to monitor the toll eight straight games without a bye was having on his players. But he said he was confident in the work being done by strength coach Aaron Wellman to maintain the Hoosiers body through that grind.

“We’ve made modifications to our preparation to make sure our guys are properly rested, properly prepared and ready to play their best on Saturday,” Allen said. “Yeah, one of the few teams that had to do this, but we’re also blessed to have consecutive games and take the field each week and be able to play. It’s definitely a blessing.”

3 comments

  1. There’s clearly no easy solution to this, assuming the COVID situation won’t derail everything from this point forward nationally as far as CFB. If I were the NCAA, I’d just cancel the Nat’l. Championship Playoff set up for this year and revert back to the traditional bowl selection format. Again, assuming that’s even viable form a public health standpoint. It would, of course, not be perfect , as it always was (imperfect). The same as the new setup can never be entirely flawless.

  2. Here’s an idea…Put the top 12 teams in a hat and draw 4. There’s your bowl championship series.
    It would be more fair than anything else. I’ll take our 1 out of 3 chances.

  3. Remember, the BIG originally wasn’t even going to have a season until the commish was reminded that the SEC and ACC were playing,..and with fans. Starting so late and locking in provisions was a mistake. Should have begun 3 weeks earlier. Just like ‘little league’ if a team fails to have 9 players, they simply would have forfeited. The ready team would have been awarded the ‘win’. If both teams couldn’t play, then each get a ‘tie’. If this were the formula, even with the late start, OSU would be 7 and 0 and no controversy. Duh.

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