Spencer Raines: The Big Ten’s first domino has already fallen

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 9:23pm

Wisconsin's recent COVID outbreak does not bode well for the rest of the Big Ten.

Wisconsin's recent COVID outbreak does not bode well for the rest of the Big Ten. Buy this photo
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Paul Chryst spoke with a somber tone when he addressed reporters on a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon.

The Wisconsin football coach was grappling with his recent positive COVID-19 test, along with the 12 positive COVID-19 tests in the program since they played Illinois on Friday. This resulted in a seven-day pause on football activities that looms over his program’s head. 

This means that their game against Nebraska — originally scheduled for this Saturday— has been cancelled, and their game against Purdue next weekend is very much in jeopardy.

This was bound to happen, right? I mean, sooner or later, a crack was going to show in the Big Ten’s approach to football this fall. We are, after all, living amidst a pandemic.

But this happened not even in a week into the start of the Big Ten’s season. And, with the time crunch the Big Ten put itself in by starting its season in late October, there won’t be room to make any of these missed games up.

Now, not only will the Badgers be playing at least one less game than the rest of their opponents — assuming that no other team has to cancel a game, which is, quite frankly, unlikely — they will also be without all players who tested positive for at least 21 days. This means that their outbreak this week could affect their roster all the way until November 14th when they play Michigan, and possibly for even longer.

And common sense tells us that this outbreak won’t be the last.

In reality, when you take into account the health and safety of players and coaches, it is nearly impossible to justify anything about the season — even though, to be fair, that hasn’t stopped them before. Meaning that when we reach the end of the season, there is a strong possibility that all 14 Big Ten teams will not have played the same number of games.

But, will the Big Ten take the warning that the outbreak at Wisconsin has already given them?

Probably not.

The games will go on. We’ll keep on seeing situations just like this. And we’ll continue to fail to put it all in a larger context. 

Wisconsin did its best to follow the safety protocols, which are significantly stricter than other conferences. And yet they still got an outbreak.

“You try to do all you can, ” Chryst said. “Do I know something (at the Illinois game) caused it? I don’t know ground zero or where it started.”

As Chryst was talking to the media, he repeatedly mentioned how the Badgers are trying to do things better, and how they are trying to do all they can.

The key word, of course, being “trying.”

No matter how hard Wisconsin — or anyone for that matter — tries to follow protocols or to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it will never be able to fully stop it. And the door will always be open for an outbreak like this to happen. That’s just life in the world of the pandemic.

The Big Ten’s first domino has already fallen. Hopefully, it won’t knock down the rest. 

But I think we know that there’s a good chance they’ll fall on their own.


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