MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Gophers football game against Northwestern on Saturday, Dec. 5, has been canceled due to its coronavirus outbreak, and the program will continue to not hold team-related activities, the athletic department said Monday.
The Minnesota program, which paused in-person work one week ago, reported 40 positive cases for COVID-19 over a 10-day span on Saturday night. Last Tuesday when the program had 15 positives cases in a five-day span, the U called off last Saturday’s Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe with Wisconsin .
The U said Monday its total of positive cases is now at 47, with 21 student-athletes and 26 staff members infected among the 170 individuals deemed within “Tier 1” in the program. The U said their next announcement will be Thursday.
“The last couple of days have shown a decrease in positive cases, but not to the point where we are able to return to competition,” Gophers athletics director Mary Coyle said in a statement. “We are disappointed not to be able to compete against Northwestern on Saturday, but we need to continue to focus on following all (Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health) guidelines and slow the spread of the virus.”
The Gophers played five straight games to start the coronavirus-condensed Big Ten schedule, going 2-3. The U’s regular season finale is scheduled for Dec. 12 against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Neb. The Big Ten has dates with crossover opponents in the East Division scheduled for Dec. 19.
“We will now shift our priority to doing everything possible to compete at Nebraska on December 12, and our decisions will continue to be guided by our medical experts,” Coyle said.
Neither the Wisconsin nor Northwestern games will be rescheduled and both are ruled a “no contest,” per Big Ten policies. However, Coyle said last week he would explore talks with the Big Ten and Wisconsin about the Axe game possibly being moved to Dec. 19.
The Gophers said athletics director Mark Coyle made the decision with President Joan Gabel and Athletics’ Medical Director Dr. Brad Nelson after consulting with the conference. Whenever the U returns to activities, they said they will conduct all meetings virtually for the rest of the season.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff continues to be our main priority,” Coyle said in the statement.
The Gophers have had daily antigen testing and said last week they have added PCR tests.