Saturday, December 4, 2021

What Saturday's cancellation means for MSU football

November 19, 2020
<p>Gate 3, like others in Spartan Stadium, is shut during a football game against Indiana University at Spartan Stadium on Nov. 14, 2020, due to COVID-19 measures.</p>

Gate 3, like others in Spartan Stadium, is shut during a football game against Indiana University at Spartan Stadium on Nov. 14, 2020, due to COVID-19 measures.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

MSU football's game at Maryland on Saturday has been called off.

The cancellation was made due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Terrapins' football program that previously led to the postponement of Maryland's matchup with Ohio State on Nov. 14.

On the broader scale, as of Wednesday afternoon, prior to the MSU vs. Maryland cancellation, 81 college football games had been postponed or cancelled so far this season according to CBS Sports.

Within the Big Ten, Wisconsin canceled two consecutive games on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7 and now Maryland is following suit.

The Maryland vs. OSU game was postponed three days prior to its planned kickoff, on Nov. 11. Early in the morning of Thursday, Nov. 19, a release from Maryland Athletics confirmed early reports that Saturday's matchup would be the second game canceled in a row for the Terrapins.

“I am gutted for our team and for our fans,” Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley said in a release. “This team is eager to play and compete and continue the growth we’ve seen this season. This virus is testing our players and coaches right now, but I have no doubt that we will emerge as a stronger unit for having gone through this together. As for me personally, I am feeling strong, with only minor symptoms. I will continue to lead this program virtually and our game preparations for Indiana will begin immediately.”

Spartan Head Coach Mel Tucker said much of the same.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff remains our top priority,” Tucker said in a statement. “While we are disappointed we won’t be able to compete this Saturday, we certainly understand the situation and hope that Maryland can get back on the field soon."

“I want to thank our medical staff for everything they have done for our program all year long. We must remain diligent in following all of our safety protocols in order to give us an opportunity to play," Tucker said.

How it happened

In what could be called a COVID cancellation of the OSU-Maryland game after the Terrapins reported eight positive cases, the same thing has happened with MSU.

According to Thursday's release, Maryland Athletics had conducted additional daily PCR testing, and "Over the past seven days, 15 student-athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a Big Ten test positivity rate of 2.8%. There were seven positive cases among staff over that same time period, resulting in a population positivity rate of 14.9%. All positive individuals are now in designated isolation spaces, per health protocols."

Maryland Athletics head physician Dr. Yvette Rooks said the team's rates went down during the weekend but saw an uptick this week that forced another cancellation.

The program hopes to resume team activities during the weekend and according to Dr. Rooks, the positive cases could be traced back to three sources.

"We've had less cases after we started with our Big Ten protocol," Rooks said.

Michigan State is planned to host Northwestern (4-0) the Saturday after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28. But what does this week's cancellation mean for the Spartans season going forward?

Rescheduling rules, what Saturday does for MSU

First of all, Maryland and Michigan State, barring some unforeseen circumstances, will not play each other this season in football.

But it's 2020. So that, of course, could change. Especially now after the Big Ten's ruling on Nov. 5.

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ESPN college football reporter Heather Dinich reported that on Nov. 5, the Big Ten's presidents and chancellors approved a rescheduling plan that would allow two teams without COVID-19 issues that had their games canceled in the same week to play each other.

The decision to do so, according to the report from Dinich, must be made by Noon Central Time on the Wednesday before game day.

This means that had the decision came earlier this week after Maryland had canceled practice Monday to Wednesday, as a spokesperson confirmed to The State News, then MSU could have potentially played had there been another Big Ten game stopped due to positive COVID test results as well.

So, this means that in a crazy circumstance, MSU could end up playing anyone in the conference who wasn't previously scheduled or ended up playing an opponent for a second time, according to the report.

But what Saturday's cancellation does for MSU is provide one more week to focus on an undefeated Northwestern team.

Luckily, when multiple officials from the University of Maryland held a press conference Thursday afternoon, Rooks said all of those who had tested positive, Locksley, who was on the virtual Zoom call, included, were doing fine.

"Everyone is doing well," Dr. Rooks said.

That's first and most important in the situation.

Saturday's emptiness will feel odd, probably, for Spartan fans. But now Tucker and his staff have a blueprint, in a sense, for how to handle an outbreak after seeing two programs in the conference go through the same thing.

Locksley said in the press conference that had the team been able to practice twice before Friday, the team was prepared to play and field the game as one of their plans for Saturday.

Maryland's team is still quarantining and not practicing, as of Thursday afternoon.

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