Ohio State-Illinois off as Buckeyes’ cases climb

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Ohio State has canceled Saturday’s game at Illinois because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the No. 4 Buckeyes’ program, and they have paused all team-related activities indefinitely after additional positive tests were revealed Friday evening, the school announced.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, university president Kristina M. Johnson and head team physician Dr. Jim Borchers made the decisions to cancel the game and pause activities in consultation with the Big Ten conference.

The game was canceled just hours after Ohio State announced that coach Ryan Day had tested positive for COVID-19 and was in isolation.

“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Smith said in a statement Friday night. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”

The program will resume its team activities when its medical staff determines it is safe to do so based on protocols established by the Big Ten conference.

This is the second game Ohio State has canceled this season, as the Buckeyes were unable to play Nov. 14 at Maryland because of COVID-19 within the Terps’ program. In order for Ohio State to compete in the Big Ten championship game, it has to play — and win — both of its remaining regular-season games, on Dec. 5 at Michigan State and Dec. 12 against rival Michigan.

Early Friday afternoon, Ohio State had still planned to fly to Champaign, Illinois, on Saturday morning for its noon ET game against the Illini. The school had confirmed “an increased number of positive tests this week for the coronavirus,” after another round of daily testing on Friday morning. Everyone associated with the team — including coaches and support staff — then took PCR tests on Friday afternoon “out of an abundance of caution to ensure that everyone on the trip is confirmed negative for the coronavirus,” according to a news release.

The school announced the cancellation of the game after the additional testing. According to the school, Ohio State has “consistently recorded nearly 0% positivity since Aug. 11.”

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