Ohio State practices Thursday amid reports of COVID-19 outbreak

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State has already had one football game canceled this season because of COVID-19, the Nov. 14 game at Maryland.

Ohio State is practicing Thursday, two sources told The Dispatch, a hopeful sign that the Buckeyes will be able to play their game Saturday at Illinois.

On Wednesday, there were unconfirmed reports of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Buckeyes.

The plan is for the Buckeyes to leave for Champaign, Ill., on Friday. With coronavirus cases surging nationwide, everything remains tenuous, however. The team is scheduled to have a socially-distanced Thanksgiving meal together Thursday afternoon.

If the Illinois game is cancelled, it would be the second of the season for Ohio State. Ohio State's game scheduled for Nov. 14 at Maryland was not played because of several COVID cases among the Terrapins.

A second cancellation would put the Buckeyes in jeopardy of not playing enough games to qualify for the Big Ten championship. The conference requires teams to play a minimum of six games to do so. Ohio State has played four games and is scheduled to play at Michigan State next week followed by the traditional season finale against Michigan.

Ohio State would not confirm that it had COVID cases within the football program. It is Ohio State's university-wide policy not to release information about the number of COVID cases.

Big Ten COVID-19 protocols approved when the conference reinstated its season in September require that teams halt football activity for a minimum of seven days if their positivity rate averages more than 5% over a rolling seven-day period and their population positivity rate (the number of positive individuals divided by those considered at risk) is more than 7.5%.

If a player has a positive test diagnosis, he cannot practice or play in a game for 21 days.

The only Ohio State player known to have missed a game for COVID reasons is senior linebacker Justin Hilliard, who had a false positive test the morning of the Penn State game on Oct. 31. Though subsequent testing that day showed Hilliard did not have the virus, Big Ten policy prevented him from playing. The conference rescinded that rule the next week.

Ohio State (4-0) is No. 4 in the first 2020 College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night. The selection committee does not have a minimum number of games a team under consideration for one of the four semifinal spots must play to be eligible.

When the Big Ten reinstated its season, it scheduled its first games for the weekend of Oct. 23-24 instead of a week earlier, as Ohio State preferred. That left no cushion for games to be possibly rescheduled if COVID cases forced postponements