Fifteen Maryland players tested positive for the virus in the past seven days, as well as Coach Michael Locksley and six other staff members.
The Terps had to cancel their game against No. 3 Ohio State this past Saturday after eight players tested positive for the virus. The football team has had 23 players test positive in a two-week span.
“Where we are today, make no mistake about it, it has been a challenge for our student-athletes, our staff, Coach Locksley, all those concerned, but I do believe that we have good medical people in place that are taking care of our student-athletes,” Athletic Director Damon Evans said Thursday during a virtual news conference. “ … We’ll just take it day-by-day, and we’ll make the best decision for our student-athletes in our program as we continue to deal with this virus.”
Yvette Rooks, the assistant director of the University Health Center, said the players who tested positive have shown a range of symptoms and are “doing well.” The Terps are scheduled to play at Indiana on Nov. 28, but many of the players who contracted the virus would not be available for that game and it remains unclear when the program will be cleared to resume practice.
In recent weeks, college football programs have struggled to keep the virus at bay. Maryland’s canceled game against Michigan State is one of 16 Football Bowl Subdivision matchups that have been disrupted this week. Fifteen games set for the weekend of Nov. 14 had to be postponed or canceled. Ten games disappeared from the schedule because of the coronavirus a week earlier. Before that, the number of disrupted games in one week had yet to reach double digits.
“As I’ve talked to our team, I’ve assured them that this is not a Maryland thing,” Locksley said. “This is a national landscape thing. … It’s just a matter of when we can get back and start to get back to some normalcy as a program.”
Some major conferences have scrambled to reschedule missed games, but that task is becoming increasingly difficult as the season progresses and the list of games that need to be made up grows each week. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have no room on their schedules to do so. Those conferences started the season much later compared with their Power Five peers, so the Big Ten planned to play nine games in nine weeks, while the Pac-12 will attempt seven games in seven weeks.
Wisconsin is the only other school in the Big Ten that has canceled games because of the virus. When the Badgers had an outbreak in their athletic department, they missed games against Nebraska and Purdue before returning to play this past weekend.
The Terps paused team activities Nov. 11 and have not practiced since. That evening, the team moved into a nearby hotel to create a pseudo bubble while players continued to be tested daily. The players left the hotel as planned Sunday, but the team has not been able to return to practice.
Rooks said the number of new cases within the program decreased over the weekend before an uptick early this week. The cases were traced back to three sources, Rooks said, declining to elaborate further.
Locksley, who is isolating at home, first reported symptoms Monday evening. He cannot return to team activities for 10 days, but that does give him time to resume on-the-field coaching duties before the Indiana game if Maryland plays. The Big Ten requires players who contract the virus to sit out for 21 days so they can go through cardiac screening before returning to the field.
Locksley spoke with Michigan State Coach Mel Tucker on Monday and said the Terps were preparing to play. But the team never received the go-ahead from the medical staff to resume practice. The Terps will have a similar wait in the upcoming days, with their game at Indiana scheduled for Nov. 28 and no clear timetable for returning to practice.
The Terps dealt with outbreaks within the athletic department once teams began returning to campus this summer. The football program paused workouts in early July after nine athletes and staff members tested positive. The athletic department had a spike in cases in early September when 46 athletes, spanning 10 teams, tested positive for the coronavirus. Since the summer, 135 of roughly 550 Maryland athletes have tested positive, according to data released by the school.
“Any time you have student-athletes who are sick or in this case that have contracted the virus, you do have concerns,” Evans said. “When you take a look at covid, we knew that going into this, this was uncertain. … Our goal was to make sure that if we decided to get back to participating and competing, which we did as a conference and an institution, that we put in the appropriate medical guidelines and protocols. And I believe we have done that.”