In the midst of a pandemic, the Badger’s toughest opponent in sports this year has proven to be COVID-19. The virus has led to hectic seasons for many teams, with games being canceled, postponed, and shuffled around.
Despite daily testing for most athletes, laws that prohibit the disclosure of college athletes’ health also prohibit us from knowing how many athletes have contracted the virus. What we do know is that the schedules of every player, coach, and staff member has been impacted by the disease in one way or another.
While the Big Ten trailed behind other divisions in resuming sporting activities this fall, they were the first NCAA hockey league to begin their season in November.
Wisconsin’s men’s and women’s hockey teams have both already played their last game of the year due to the virus. Since only partial season schedules were released for both teams, the coaches and players remain uncertain what 2021 will have in store for them.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the two men’s hockey games at Michigan State would be postponed due to an outbreak amongst Badger players. The team was already in East Lansing when the confirmation of a positive test sent them back home.
These postponed games were the final two of twelve Wisconsin was scheduled to play before the New Year. With a record of 5-5, the Badger’s have played the most games of any team in NCAA hockey this season.
Badger’s coach Tony Granato remained positive after the announcement the games would be postponed. "We played 10 of 12 games," Granato said. "If you said a month ago you're going to play 10 games before Dec. 5, we would have taken it.”
The women’s hockey team has suffered from even more postponements. Last weekend their two games against Minnesota were postponed because of COVID-19 related issues in the Gophers program. The Badgers have also postponed their two games this week against Minnesota-Duluth and two next week against Ohio State because of COVID-19 spreading within their own program.
With Wisconsin’s men’s and women’s hockey teams being ranked 13th and 1st in the nation respectively, both teams await news on when their games will be rescheduled and what the rest of their seasons will look like.
After playing their first four games of the season, Wisconsin’s basketball team also ran into their first postponed game of the season. After a positive test caused the Louisville Cardinals to indefinitely pause all team activities last week, the Badgers announced they would play Rhode Island on Dec. 13 instead.
Players and coaches have noted they were not surprised about running into their first schedule change due to the virus. The team’s first priority seemed to be finding an alternative program to replace Louisville and still have the chance to play.
“We kind of already knew going into this season that there could be a lot of changes, so it was kind of what we expected,” said senior Aleem Ford, “So regardless of who we have scheduled in front of us, we’re just going to attack it day by day and get ready for whoever we have up next.”
Falling nine spots to be ranked number 13 after losing to Marquette last week likely made the Badger’s even more eager to get back on the court. The team’s schedule will continue to be dictated by test results as the holiday season approaches.
Instead of the postponements being issued in other sports, the Big Ten deems football games canceled by COVID-19 a "no contest." So far, opening weekend was the only week the Big Ten has had zero cancelations due to the virus.
Minnesota’s Covid-related cancelation of their rivalry game officially made Wisconsin ineligible to compete in the Big Ten Championship. This is the first year the rivals have not battled for the Paul Bunyan axe since 1906.
Although it was unlikely the Badgers would come out on top of the Big Ten West over Northwestern, they will now fall one game short of the six game minimum required for eligibility in the league title game.
Wisconsin football activities were on pause for outbreaks in their own program from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6, forcing them to cancel games against Nebraska and Purdue. Ultimately, the interruptions to their practice and game schedules have unknown consequences on the Badgers overall performance this season.
Ohio State is another Big Ten program that will notably fail to meet the six game minimum due to a canceled rivalry game against Michigan next weekend.
The undefeated Buckeyes are scrambling to find out if another team will become available to play as a result of more cancelations. Alternatively, it is possible the six game minimum requirement is altered if the average number of Big Ten games falls below six.
While they await news of their league title game eligibility, Ohio State is also uncertain of how cancelations will impact their shot at a national championship. The NCAA will announce the top four teams who will compete in the playoffs on Dec. 20.
Regardless of how Big Ten teams’ hockey, basketball, and football seasons shake out, this year will certainly be a memorable one for college sports. Despite the scheduling nightmare that postponements, cancelations and rescheduling have created, fans remain invested in their team’s success.