Delay of Games

A guide to Badger football’s off-again, on-again season.

A Badger football night game takes place in an empty Camp Randall

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the team’s schedule. Jeff Miller

When the clock hit zero at the end of a disappointing Rose Bowl on January 1, 2020, Badger fans thought they knew when the team would begin its 12-game road to redemption: September 5 against Indiana, with visits from Southern Illinois and Appalachian State in the following weeks.

COVID-19 upended all that. In March, all sports schedules were put on hold. The 2020 season remained in limbo until August 5, when the Big Ten announced that the Badger football season would kick off on September 4, now with only 10 games.

On August 11, the Big Ten reversed itself: the entire fall slate of sports would be postponed indefinitely. On September 16, the Big Ten re-reversed itself and announced that, due to advances in COVID-19 testing, a nine-game football season would begin October 24, a mere 49 days after fans had initially expected (but after On Wisconsin’s press time). The stadium would be nearly empty, as the UW isn’t selling tickets and is working with Madison and Dane County to discourage tailgating.

Shortly after the first game, the new schedule was itself disrupted when COVID-19 struck players and staff members, including coach Paul Chryst ’88. Big Ten guidelines stated that a 5 percent rate of positive COVID-19 tests among team members, or a 7.5 percent positive rate among players, coaches, and support staff, would force a halt to practice and competition, and the Badgers hit those numbers, forcing the team to cancel games on October 31 and November 7. More cancellations may follow.

To tide fans over, the athletic department and the Big Ten Network aired a four-week “Dream Season” of classic (i.e., rerun) football games. The UW entries featured Badger radio announcers Mike Lucas and Matt Lepay calling the action and ran from September 19 to October 10.

Though football had a restart, most fall sports remained on hold, as of press time. “Plans are being discussed at the conference level,” says Brian Lucas, director of football brand management for the UW athletics department.

This story has been updated to reflect developments since the magazine was printed.

Published in the Winter 2020 issue

Tags: Athletics, COVID-19 pandemic, football

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