Rutgers

Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Big Ten on hold until questions answered

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The University of Wisconsin chancellor said Tuesday that Big Ten football will remain on hold until there are answers to questions about COVID-19 testing and tracing, along with possible long-term heart issues related to the coronavirus.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank said once the Big Ten university leaders have their concerns addressed “we will try to plan a delayed season.”

A month after postponing games, conference leaders are considering playing a fall season after all. There were weekend meetings on a plan to begin play as soon as mid-October.

Blank, appearing at a congressional hearing on compensation for college athletes, was asked by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) about the Big Ten’s decision last month and whether the conference might reverse course.

“There were several main reasons for that,” Blank said. “One was that we were uncertain we could do the level of testing and contact tracing that we needed to keep athletes safe. Secondly, there was this growing evidence about heart-related myocarditis and that evidence was uncertain and it wasn’t clear what it means and we wanted to know more. There were a few other minor reasons.”

She would not predict which way a vote to return to play would go.

“Decisions within the Big Ten are largely majority based decisions, but I’ll be honest, we almost always decide everything by consensus. We very rarely take votes,” Blank said.

A court filing earlier this month disclosed that Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 in favor of postponing all fall sports. Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State voted against the move.

When the next decision comes from the Big Ten was unclear, though KETV in Omaha posted video Tuesday of University of Nebraska President Ted Carter saying, “We’re getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight,” before he spoke at an unrelated news conference.

Carter later told KLKN in Lincoln that statement was taken out of context.

“When there is any news to share or confirm regarding any Big Ten board decision, it will be announced by the Big Ten,” University of Nebraska spokeswoman Deb Fiddelke said.

Rutgers had at least 30 players test positive for COVID-19

Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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Rutgers has had at least 30 football players test positive for COVID-19 since the team returned to campus in mid June.

Coach Greg Schiano released the information on Friday in his first conference call since the Big Ten Conference decided not to play football this fall.

Schiano, who was hired in December for a second tour with the struggling Scarlet Knights, said the the majority of the positive tests came in the past three weeks after the team suspended activity following a report of six positives. There were only four positive tests the first six weeks.

Schiano said there were 30-31 total cases and all the players are doing well. Only two remain quarantined. Half the group showed no symptoms, he said, and the worst case was like a very bad flu where the player sweated “through the sheets.”

All the players who have tested positive are receiving full cardiac workups, the coach said. There has been concern about myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that has been found in some COVID-19 patients.

Schiano said the coronavirus pandemic has taught him that speculating is a waste of time. He thought the team was doing well and suddenly it was sidelined.

“It was like getting hit by a 2-by-4 when all the cases happened,” Schiano said.

There are estimates the lack of a football season will cost Rutgers $50 million. Schiano said there will have to be some belt tightening. He said he has talked to athletic director Pat Hobbs and he will keep his 10% salary cut in place.

Schiano did not want to talk about how the pandemic has affected the team, noting that many people have either died or suffered a family tragedy.

“We are going to be fine,” Schiano said. “A lot of people lost loved ones who are not going to be with them, so I have tried to share that with our players. Let’s keep this all in perspective. It’s adversity, sure, because it is not what we are used to. It’s not what we thought would happen. But in the grand scheme of things, we got it pretty good.”