Virus forces Gophers to cancel game vs. No. 16 Northwestern

Minnesota has called off Saturday’s game against 16th-ranked Northwestern, the second straight cancellation for the Gophers due to a spike in COVID-19 cases within the program

Minnesota announced Monday it has called off this weekend’s game against No. 16 Northwestern, the second straight cancellation for the Gophers due to a spike in COVID-19 cases within the program.

University officials made the decision in consultation with the Big Ten after seven additional positive cases were confirmed. The Wildcats, who lead the West Division by one game at 5-1, were scheduled to play Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff continues to be our main priority,” athletic director Mark Coyle said. “The last couple of days have shown a decrease in positive cases, but not to the point where we are able to return to competition.”

Coyle said the Gophers are aiming to play the Huskers as scheduled. The university is working with the state health department to isolate and treat the individuals who’ve tested positive. Last week, Minnesota initiated the implementation of additional testing, beyond the conference’s established protocols.

The virus has done a number on the Big Ten race, with six cancellations so far. The 18th-ranked Badgers have likely become ineligible for the conference championship because they haven’t played enough games. East Division leader and third-ranked Ohio State, which had to cancel its last game against Illinois, would be in danger of that fate with one more cancellation.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The pandemic is also disrupting the early days of the college basketball season, with coaches scrambling to fill holes in the schedule. The 21st-ranked Oregon men’s basketball program announced it would play two games in Omaha, Nebraska — against Missouri on Wednesday and Seton Hall on Friday.

Oregon is yet to open its basketball season because of the COVID-19-related cancelations of multi-team events the Ducks hoped to play in as well as a game against Eastern Washington.

Ducks coach Dana Altman was the longtime coach at Creighton, in Omaha, before leaving for Oregon and he has remained close friends with athletic director Bruce Rasmussen.

Seton Hall (0-1), like Creighton, plays in the Big East. Rasmussen served as the middleman to get the Ducks and Pirates together on Creighton’s home court at the CHI Health Center.

“It didn’t make a lot of sense for Oregon to go all the way to New Jersey or for Seton Hall to go all the way to Oregon,” Rasmussen said, “so we helped them get the game here.”

Oregon scheduled the impromptu game against Missouri on its own and might look for more games in Omaha after the Seton Hall game.

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