Ohio State's road trip to Illinois has been called off, and all team activities have been paused.
The Buckeyes will no longer be traveling to Champaign, where they were set to play the Illini on Saturday at noon, as the game was canceled on Friday night due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program.
Per a news release from Ohio State:
The Department of Athletics has paused all team-related football activities. The decision to cancel and pause was made jointly by Director of Athletics Gene Smith, University President Kristina M. Johnson, head team physician Dr. Jim Borchers and in consultation with the Big Ten Conference.
“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Smith said. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”
The program will resume its team activities when its medical staff determines it is safe to do so based on protocols established by the Big Ten Conference.
The news comes just hours after Ohio State announced that Ryan Day had tested positive for COVID-19 and that the team had experienced an “increased number of positive tests” this week. Originally, Ohio State had still planned to play on Saturday – though it delayed its travel to Illinois until Saturday morning, while Larry Johnson was set to fill in as interim head coach – but now, the trip has been called off altogether.
Asked whether the decision to cancel the game was a voluntary decision by Ohio State or because the program had reached the Big Ten's thresholds forcing a cancellation, an Ohio State spokesperson said he could only say the game was canceled.
It's the second time in three weeks that Ohio State has had a game canceled due to COVID-19, as the Buckeyes' game at Maryland that was scheduled to be played on Nov. 14 was canceled due to positive tests within Maryland's football program.
Ohio State is now down to just six games on its regular season schedule, which means the Buckeyes would be ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game if they are unable to play next weekend at Michigan State or their Dec. 12 rivalry game against Michigan.
How a second canceled game could impact Ohio State's College Football Playoff hopes remains uncertain. The College Football Playoff has not set a minimum number of games to qualify for this year's field, and Ohio State is ranked fourth in the initial rankings that were released this week even though it has only played four games this year.
Asked Tuesday night about how the selection committee is weighing the different number of games played by each team, College Football Playoff selection committee Gary Barta said “there will likely become a number of games where it does make an impact, but we haven’t identified an absolute number that we would rest on.”
“We’re gonna identify the top four teams and the top 25 teams based on the games they do play and how strong they are, so we’re not gonna hold somebody back because they played a certain number of games,” Barta said. “We want to pick the top 25 teams based on their ability and based on the way they’re playing and certainly the number of games that we’re able to watch is gonna play at least some factor.”
Ohio State has not specifically confirmed how many players have COVID-19 or which players tested positive, but any players who did test positive this week will be unable to play in any games for the remainder of the regular season due to Big Ten policy that sidelines players for 21 days after a confirmed positive test for COVID-19.