How Graham Mertz, Paul Chryst’s positive COVID-19 tests impact Wisconsin football schedule, Big Ten season

Wisconsin won its season opener with a 45-7 victory against Illinois on Oct. 23, including an impressive debut from quarterback Graham Mertz.  

Five days later, the program has paused team activities as a result of several positive COVID-19 tests. 

Athlon Sports reported Wisconsin had 12 people within the program test positive for COVID-19 this week. 

Mertz was the first player to test positive. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Mertz tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, and CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd confirmed Mertz reported Tuesday that Mertz tested positive for a second time

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, who declined to comment on the quarterback situation on a Zoom call Monday, also tested positive. He joins Purdue’s Jeff Brohm as the second coach to test positive for COVID-19. 

Here is what we know about the situation:  

MORE: Week 9 picks against the spread 

Wisconsin’s QB situation

Mertz hit 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards, five TDs and no interceptions. The Badgers already lost starting quarterback Jack Coan to a season-ending injury before the season started. If Wolf cannot play, then that would leave the team with one scholarship quarterback on the roster.  

The Journal-Sentinel reported that backup quarterback Chase Wolf also tested positive for COVID-19 this week. 

Danny Vanden Boom is the next quarterback in line. Vanden Boom played in three games in mop-up duty in the 2018 season. He has one career passing attempt, which was a three-yard TD. 

What is the Big Ten’s COVID-19 policy?

The Big Ten instituted strict COVID-19 testing protocols when it reversed its decision to cancel the season on Sept. 29. It requires student-athletes, trainers, coaches and any other individuals on the field for practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing.  

Wisconsin does not release test results of individual student-athletes because of medical privacy. 

Here is where the Big Ten policy is different. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition after a positive COVID-19 test is 21 days. The Big Ten also monitors each school’s positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average to determine whether practice or game play can continue for that team.   

Wisconsin football schedule implications

Wisconsin was a preseason favorite to win the Big Ten West division, and the Badgers are ranked No. 9 in the latest AP Poll.  

The Big Ten does not have bye weeks as part of its eight-week regular-season schedule, and that could shake up the Badgers’ season. The next three games on the schedule are at Nebraska, at home against Purdue and at No. 13 Michigan. That’s a tough stretch, and it will affect all of those teams if Wisconsin cannot play. 

What’s next?  

The Big Ten’s response to the schedule will be interesting knowing that there are no bye weeks built into the schedule. Will the Badgers be able to return this season? Stay tuned for more updates. 

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