“We know that there’s a lot of work that went into this. And for us to play, if that’s in the best interest for everyone involved, then I completely support it,” Chryst said in a video news conference with reporters. “We’re getting the opportunity to play, and you don’t want anyone to miss a game, but more so, you don’t want anything to happen that maybe you look back and say you might’ve been able to do something about it. … This is what we came up with and what’s allowing us to play.”
Chryst would not comment on Sunday’s reports in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal that said redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz had tested positive for the coronavirus one day after his record-setting debut in Friday’s season-opening win over Illinois. If a second test comes back positive, Mertz would have to miss at least three of the Badgers’ eight regular season games in this pandemic-shortened season.
In a statement Sunday night, Wisconsin said none of its players, coaches or staff members tested positive or reported having covid-19 symptoms before Friday’s game but did not mention whether any players had tested positive afterward.
Under the conference’s coronavirus protocols, Big Ten athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals who are on the field for all practices and games undergo daily antigen testing. Athletes who test positive through the daily testing must take a more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result.
Should that test also come back positive, athletes must then undergo a cardiac evaluation and be approved to return by a heart specialist designated by their school. Athletes who test positive must sit out at least 21 days after the confirmation of their positive test before they can return to game competition.
Should his positive test be confirmed, Mertz, considered the top quarterback recruit ever to sign with Wisconsin, will not be allowed to play until Nov. 21 at Northwestern, at the earliest. He will miss games against Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan after tying a Badgers record with five touchdown passes and throwing just one incompletion on 21 attempts in their season-opening 45-7 rout of Illinois on Friday.
Chase Wolf, who has thrown two passes in his career at Wisconsin, probably would step in for the Badgers in Mertz’s absence.
Each Power Five conference tests players at least three times per week, but the Big Ten’s mandatory 21-day hiatus for players who test positive is the longest of the group. In the SEC, players who test positive must sit out at least 14 days, while it’s at least 10 days in the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.
Last month, Michigan linebacker Josh Ross called the 21-day waiting period “outrageous,” considering the Big Ten’s shortened season this year. He also criticized protocols that could shut down entire programs, costing them games: namely, the rule that teams must halt activity for at least seven days if their positivity rate averages more than 5 percent over a rolling seven-day period and their population positivity rate — the number of positive individuals on a team divided by those deemed at risk — exceeds 7.5 percent.
“That’s ridiculous,” Ross said. “That could potentially ruin not only the person’s season but a team’s season.”
Penn State Coach James Franklin said the conference’s rigid protocols should help force players and coaches to be more careful.
“We’re going to have to look out for each other and remind each other to make good choices,” Franklin said last month. “I think the other thing that you realize is that the Big Ten has got very stringent protocols, probably the most stringent protocols in college athletics and maybe even professional athletics.
“So the reality is, if we’re not following the rules, you’re going to be out for a large number of days and miss not only practices but games as well. And nobody wants that, especially in a reduced season.”
During his news conference Monday, Chryst said he was confident that Saturday’s game at Nebraska would be played.