Ohio State's Ryan Day has coronavirus
Ohio State football coach Ryan Day has tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Friday afternoon.
Day, who has guided the Buckeyes to an undefeated start and serves as the primary play-caller for one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country, will miss Saturday’s game at Illinois as well as next week's game at Michigan State.
Big Ten coaches who test positive for COVID-19 are required to be out for 10 days, according to the conference’s protocols. Ohio State spokesman Jerry Emig said Friday that Day would be in insolation until Dec. 7.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson will assume head-coaching duties in his place against Illinois. Johnson also serves as the team's assistant head coach.
A longtime assistant at Ohio State and previously at Penn State, Johnson last served as a head coach at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1993.
Statewide, some 17,065 Ohioans tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and Friday, the Ohio Department of Health said Friday after a delay in posting. With those figures, Ohio now has reported 399,808 cases of the virus.
“Today’s data includes those cases that would have been reported on Thanksgiving. Additionally, the data (reported Friday) is incomplete. Because of unprecedented volume, thousands of reports are pending review,” the ODH website said.
The daily record for coronavirus cases was set Monday with 11,885, although it could be a data anomaly due to a backlog of test results. Ohio’s new daily cases have consistently hovered between 6,000 and 9,000 since Nov. 12.
Deaths rose by 72 Thursday and Friday, bringing the number of Ohioans killed by the virus to 6,346, according to ODH.
Regarding the 41-year-old Day, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement that the second-year coach is “doing well physically,” but did not say if he has been experiencing any symptoms since contracting the virus. He is currently in isolation.
The school confirmed there have been additional positive cases within the football program this week, but did not identify the other individuals or say how many of them tested positive.
Citing privacy laws, Ohio State has not released information concerning COVID-19 testing this season, but said its positivity rate has been near 0% since Aug. 11.
Ohio State said the positive cases did not meet the Big Ten’s threshold that would require a game to be canceled, and the team is on schedule to face the Fighting Illini on Saturday. Teams must maintain a positivity rate below 5% before they are required to suspend organized activities, including competition.
"I feel terrible for Coach and for the members of the program who have been diagnosed with a positive test," Smith said. "Coach Day and this team have been true leaders in handling things so well throughout this pandemic. Our team wants to play this game, and we’re going to do everything we can to help make this happen. All of the decisions on the welfare of our student-athletes and staff members will continue to be guided by our medical staff."
The Buckeyes are planning to leave for Champaign early Saturday ahead of a scheduled kickoff of noon Eastern time.
The team plane had earlier been scheduled for takeoff Friday night, but it was delayed so that players, coaches and other staff members could go through a round of polymerase chain reaction tests.
OSU team and staff members are tested each day through antigen tests, which were provided by the conference through a corporate partnership, but they are considered to be less sensitive than PCR tests.
The surging coronavirus pandemic has previously altered Ohio State’s season. Its game at Maryland on Nov. 14 was canceled after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among the Terrapins prompted the team to shut down organized activities for more than a week.
Games that are not played are declared a no contest by the conference and are not rescheduled.
Because of the Big Ten’s delayed start to the season, the schedule did not leave any idle weeks for teams to reschedule games. It positions teams to play eight games in a span of eight weeks, followed by a final weekend on Dec. 19 that includes the conference title game and several crossover games between the divisions.
Despite an increase in cases, the Buckeyes have continued to practice this week, including as recently as Thanksgiving, and they had planned to hold a walk-through on Friday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Day was at the team’s Thursday practice, according to photos shared on social media. While speaking in front of the team, he was seen raising the Illibuck Trophy, which is given to the winner between Ohio State and Illinois.
In its announcement on Friday, the school did not say when Day was found to be positive.
At least three other Big Ten head coaches have tested positive for COVID-19 this season, including Maryland coach Mike Locksley, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst.
Alabama coach Nick Saban will miss this weekend’s Iron Bowl against Auburn after testing positive for COVID-19.
Day spoke with parents of players on a Zoom call Friday afternoon concerning his positive test.
If other players or coaches will be absent against Illinois, it will not likely be known until Saturday morning when the team is planning to release its player availability report. The weekly status report is usually out on Friday, but was delayed by 24 hours.
Dispatch reporter Megan Henry contributed to this story.