As Big Ten football returned to action over the weekend, Wisconsin fans found the immediate future exciting and full of potential. The Badgers’ new quarterback, Graham Mertz, was spectacular against Illinois on Friday night in a 45-7 rout that inspired high hopes.
The sunny skies clouded quickly when Mertz reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
The Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cited sources in their Sunday stories that an antigen test returned a positive result. If confirmed by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab test, the result would cost the team Mertz’s availability for at least three weeks.
For some coronavirus context, Alabama head coach Nick Saban quarantined following what turned out to be a false positive and was able to be on the sideline for Alabama’s game two weeks ago. Badgers backers can only hope for similar good fortune.
A statement from the university’s athletic department said there were no positives in the daily testing prior to Friday’s game and that “Wisconsin Athletics will not be releasing COVID-related testing information regarding any individual student-athlete, due to medical privacy.”
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said Monday, he believes this Saturday’s game at Nebraska will be played as scheduled but did not discuss Mertz’s status.
“I will not, cannot and should not therefore comment about anything dealing with our testing and coronavirus,” Chryst said Monday. “The No. 1 concern for the league, and I appreciate this, was how do we best keep everyone as safe as possible regarding the virus, and then how do you manage the impacts of it when someone has it.”
Mertz, a redshirt freshman, completed 20 of 21 pass attempts Friday night for 248 yards and five touchdowns in his first career start with Wisconsin.