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Minnesota vs. Northwestern football game called off due to COVID

Andy Greder
St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Minnesota vs. Northwestern football game on Saturday has been canceled due to the Gophers’ coronavirus outbreak, and the program will continue to not hold team-related activities, the athletic department said Monday.

The Minnesota program, which paused in-person work one week ago, reported 40 positive cases for COVID-19 over a 10-day span on Saturday night. Last Tuesday when the program had 15 positives cases in a five-day span, it called off last Saturday’s Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe with Wisconsin.

Minnesota's next scheduled game is Dec. 12 at Nebraska.

Minnesota said Monday its total of positive cases is now at 47, with 21 student-athletes and 26 staff members infected among the 170 individuals deemed within “Tier 1” in the football program.

“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,” Gophers athletic director Mary Coyle said in a statement. “We are disappointed not to be able to compete against Northwestern on Saturday, but we need to continue to focus on following all (Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health) guidelines and slow the spread of the virus.”

The Gophers played five straight games to start the coronavirus-condensed Big Ten schedule, going 2-3. Their regular-season finale is scheduled for Dec. 12 at Nebraska. The Big Ten has dates with divisional crossover opponents on Dec. 19.

“We will now shift our priority to doing everything possible to compete at Nebraska on December 12, and our decisions will continue to be guided by our medical experts,” Coyle said.

Neither the Wisconsin nor Northwestern games will be rescheduled and both are ruled a “no contest,” per Big Ten policies. However, Coyle said last week he would explore talks with the Big Ten and Wisconsin about the Axe game possibly being moved to Dec. 19.