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Maryland football cancels Michigan State game after 15 players test positive for coronavirus

Maryland's game against Rutgers turned out to be the Terps' final regular season game. (Julio Cortez/AP)
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The Maryland football team’s regular season finale against Michigan State was canceled because of coronavirus cases in the Terrapins’ program, the school announced Thursday afternoon. In the past seven days, 15 players and six staff members tested positive for the virus, and Maryland paused all team activities.

This is the third game Maryland canceled because of the virus. The Terps also didn’t play Michigan because of cases in the Wolverines’ program. The four cancellations are the most of any Big Ten team. As programs around the country struggle to prevent outbreaks, more than three dozen Maryland football players have contracted the virus.

“This has been a season of promise and of adversity,” Coach Michael Locksley said in a statement. “Our team has demonstrated a tremendous work ethic, resolve and displayed Maryland pride throughout this unique season. We have battled two opponents each week, the team we matched up with on the field and COVID. Together, we experienced tremendous highs and we are deeply disappointed that we will not be able to test ourselves on the field against Michigan State.”

The Big Ten recently announced Maryland’s matchup against Michigan State as the Terps’ final game of the regular season. The conference initially planned for teams to face an additional cross-division matchup this weekend while the top teams from each division play for the Big Ten championship. But the conference altered that idea and decided to use this weekend to reschedule some matchups that were canceled earlier in the season. Maryland was originally scheduled to play the Spartans on Nov. 21, but another coronavirus outbreak in the Terps’ program prompted the school to cancel the game.

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Only four games in the Big Ten are still scheduled to be played this weekend. Purdue’s game against No. 11 Indiana and Michigan’s game against No. 16 Iowa were canceled because of the virus. The Big Ten’s title game between East Division winner Ohio State and West Division champion Northwestern is still on for Saturday in Indianapolis.

This weekend marks the end of the regular season around the country, with the College Football Playoff committee announcing its final rankings Sunday. Some teams have opted out of playing in bowl games because of the mental strain this season has placed on players.

With a win over Michigan State, the Terps would have improved to 3-3 and positioned themselves to earn a spot in a bowl game for the first time since 2016. The NCAA waived the usual requirements for bowl eligibility, so there is still a chance that Maryland could be selected despite a sub-.500 record. But the Terps now only have two wins, and it’s unclear whether they would have enough available players or will have controlled the outbreak in time for a late-December bowl game.

In the Terps’ overtime loss to Rutgers last weekend, they played without four key players — quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, linebackers Chance Campbell and Ruben Hyppolite II and defensive back Jakorian Bennett. All of those players have started at times this season and could not play against Rutgers for medical reasons. Locksley declined to comment when asked whether those players tested positive for the coronavirus.

Maryland does not release the names of players who test positive. The Big Ten’s protocols require players who test positive for the virus to sit out for 21 days.

Maryland canceled games against Ohio State and Michigan State last month because of an outbreak in the program. Twenty-three players and seven staff members, including Locksley, tested positive during a two-week span in November. Numerous players could not play when Maryland returned against Indiana. The following week, Michigan canceled its game against Maryland because of coronavirus cases in its program.

At the University of Maryland, 154 of roughly 550 athletes have tested positive for the virus since teams began returning to campus this summer.