The Maryland football team’s game at Michigan scheduled for Saturday has been canceled because of coronavirus cases in the Wolverines program, Michigan announced Wednesday afternoon.
“The decision by our medical professionals to stop practices and cancel this Saturday’s game against Maryland was made with the health, safety and welfare of the student-athletes, coaches and staff as our utmost priority,” Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “We have seen an increase in the number of student-athletes unavailable to compete due to positive COVID-19 tests and associated contact tracing due to our most recent antigen and PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing results.”
This is the third game on Maryland’s schedule that has been canceled this season. The Terrapins couldn’t play back-to-back home games against Ohio State and Michigan State after a coronavirus outbreak in their program. During a two-week span last month, 23 Maryland players and seven staff members, including Coach Michael Locksley, tested positive for the virus. Maryland returned to play at Indiana this past weekend, losing 27-11, but now the Terps will have another disruption because of an outbreak at another school.
Maryland men’s basketball game vs. George Mason canceled. Terps will now play Saint Peter’s.
The Terps played without numerous starters in the game at Indiana. The Big Ten requires players who contract the virus to sit out for 21 days. This protocol gives schools time to conduct cardiac screening before athletes return to play. Some of the players who missed the Indiana game were set to return against Michigan. The Wolverines (2-4) have struggled this season, and the game could have served as an opportunity for the Terps to pick up a win against one of the traditional powers in the conference. By next week, all 23 players who tested positive will have reached the 21-day threshold.
The Big Ten’s schedule didn’t leave any open weeks for games to be rescheduled. Each school in the conference has attempted to play nine games in nine weeks, while other major conferences built in open dates that allowed them to play postponed games. The Big Ten and Pac-12 initially opted to cancel the fall season, so when the conferences reversed that decision, they had a delayed start to the season, which forced them to build schedules with games every weekend.
As the college football season has progressed and coronavirus cases spike across the country, the number of canceled and postponed games has risen. At least 14 Football Bowl Subdivision games have been disrupted in each of the past three weekends.
In the Big Ten, Minnesota also had to cancel its game against Northwestern this weekend because of a significant outbreak in the Golden Gophers program. ESPN reported last month that the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors approved a process that would allow schedule adjustments to maximize the number of games played each weekend. If multiple programs cancel games on the same weekend, their opponents could face each other, even if those teams had already played each other or if they were not previously scheduled to play. In this case, Maryland has already faced Northwestern — a 43-3 loss in the season opener — and a rematch appears unlikely.
The Maryland team planned to hold meetings and practice as scheduled Wednesday, the school said in a statement, with the Terps’ next game at home Dec. 12 against Rutgers. Maryland will now play only five regular season games, so the Terps (2-2) are no longer eligible for the Big Ten championship game, which would have been a remote possibility anyway. After the game against Rutgers, the Terps will play the team from the Big Ten West division that finishes in the same spot in the standings. Maryland could also earn a spot in a bowl game for the first time since 2016.
In his second season as Maryland’s head coach, Locksley has relied on many young players. Two true freshmen, wide receiver Rakim Jarrett and cornerback Tarheeb Still, have won starting jobs at their positions, but both missed the game against Indiana. Other young players, including sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, and a handful of transfers have had key roles on this team. Each game is critical in their development, but the Terps now have only two matchups, and a possible third by way of a bowl berth, remaining on the schedule.
“Being in the growth phase, every opportunity we get to compete, to go out and play, is a step in the right direction for our program,” Locksley said Tuesday before the game against Michigan was canceled. “With the type of young players that we’ve played with, these opportunities, having missed two of them, we don’t take it lightly.”