A surge in players testing positive for the coronavirus forced the Maryland football program on Wednesday to suspend all activities. The university also said that Saturday’s game against No. 3 Ohio State would be canceled and not rescheduled.
The school announced that eight players tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days. That number influenced athletic director Damon Evans and president Darryll Pines to make the decision to stop all team-related activities following the recommendation of university health officials and in consultation with officials from the Big Ten.
“There is nothing more important than the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Evans said in a statement distributed by the school. “We realize that this news is disappointing to all of the Maryland fans out there who were looking forward to the Terps taking on an outstanding Ohio State team, but the responsible thing for us to do is pause football activities, given the number of positive cases currently in our program.”
The Terps were 2-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference after Saturday’s 35-19 victory at Penn State. The team’s surprisingly strong start and the emergence of sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of former Alabama star and current Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, had generated some anticipation for Saturday’s game against the Buckeyes (3-0, 3-0), a candidate for the College Football Playoff.
“We’re obviously extremely disappointed that we’ll be unable to host Ohio State this Saturday,” coach Michael Locksley said. “It was an opportunity that our team was preparing for and excited about. However, we have and always will keep our players, coaches and staff’s safety at the forefront of our decision-making process. We’ll continue to operate as much as we can virtually as we monitor the situation in hopes of returning to play when it’s deemed safe.”
The university also announced that 1,510 on-campus PCR screening tests have been conducted for student-athletes across all sports between Sept. 30 and Nov. 10. Ten student-athletes have tested positive.
Maryland is the second Big Ten school to deal with a coronavirus outbreak. Wisconsin was forced to cancel two games after a surge in COVID-19 cases. Thirty members of the program — 17 players and 13 staff — have tested positive since Oct. 21, but the university was down to five active cases on Monday, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
As part of the Big Ten Conference protocols, football student-athletes began testing daily on Sept. 30 and men’s and women’s basketball teams began testing daily on Oct. 26.
All other student-athletes will continue to be tested weekly.
In order to protect the privacy of those student-athletes who test positive, Maryland Athletics will continue to publicly release the aggregate number of positive tests at regular intervals.