Late on Tuesday afternoon Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted out what we all knew might be coming: the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Golden Gophers’ annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe was canceled for this coming Saturday.
The Gophers had canceled practice on Tuesday due to potential positive COVID-19 tests from Monday and had been dealing with players missing games all season, so this isn’t a huge shock. Having the game canceled also means that the Badgers are ineligible for the Big Ten Championship game, although they were a long shot to make that game anyway after losing to Northwestern.
Wisconsin and Minnesota have the longest, uninterrupted streak of playing each other in all of FBS, having faced off each year since 1906, most recently for Paul Bunyan’s Axe but prior to that for the Slab of Bacon.
Minnesota and Wisconsin have not missed a game since 1906. https://t.co/JRS3KpbvVh— The Daily Gopher (@TheDailyGopher) November 24, 2020
In a year full of shitty happenings in the sports world, this is just the icing on the shit cake that we have been eating since March. We will update this post as more news becomes available.
UW wanted to work something out....so there you have it. https://t.co/N64m3Qd3OF— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) November 24, 2020
Statement from University of Minnesota:
The University of Minnesota football team will pause all team-related activities as it responds to positive COVID-19 cases in the program.
The team’s scheduled game at Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 28, will not be played and will not be rescheduled, per Big Ten policy for this season. The game will be ruled a no contest.
The decision to pause football activities was made by Director of Athletics Mark Coyle, President Joan Gabel and Gopher Athletics’ Medical Director Dr. Brad Nelson after consulting with the Big Ten Conference.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has always been our main priority,” said Coyle. “We have experienced an increase in positive cases recently and have made the responsible decision to pause team activities. We will continue to rely on the guidance of our medical experts as we navigate the next several days. We are doing everything we possibly can to miss the fewest amount of days possible. Our goal is to be healthy enough and ready to compete on December 5 against Northwestern.”
Nine student-athletes and six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last five days. There were additional presumptive positive tests today and the program is awaiting confirmation of those results.
“This is the right decision,” said Nelson, the department’s medical director. “There was a sudden increase in positive cases and this pause will allow the team to focus on stopping the spread of the virus.”
In addition to the Big Ten’s established daily antigen testing, Minnesota will also implement PCR testing two times each week for members of the football program as it works to return to the field.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes will always come first,” said head coach P.J. Fleck. “Like almost every program in the country, we have been affected on some level by COVID-19 every week this season, but these last few days have resulted in more cases than we have previously seen.
“I am disappointed for our student-athletes and our fans that we will not be able to compete on Saturday, but we need to focus on the health of our student-athletes and staff, which means stopping the spread of the virus. I support the decision made by our administration and medical professionals in consultation with the Big Ten Conference, and I want to thank our athletic trainers and team doctors for everything they are doing to support our program. We will return when it is determined safe to do so by medical experts.”