Ohio State says football team to travel to Michigan State on Friday, all set to play game

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra

Ohio State has received a go-ahead for this weekend’s football game at Michigan State, the school announced Friday afternoon.

The team will take a charter flight to East Lansing on Friday night ahead of a noon kickoff on Saturday that remains on schedule.

The announcement came one week after an outbreak of coronavirus cases prompted the Buckeyes to pause organized team activities for three days, including canceling a game at Illinois, the second time in three weeks a game had been called off.

Ohio State Buckeyes players huddle up before the start of the first day of spring football practice on Monday, March 2, 2020 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

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“We are very confident that we are heading to East Lansing with a team that can safely compete and whose health, safety and well-being has been our utmost concern,” team physician Jim Borchers said in a statement. “We’ve tested, monitored and evaluated our results daily and have advised the student-athletes, coaches and performance staff accordingly.

Borchers added that Ohio State’s population positive rate had “returned on the seven-day rolling average to a level that allows us to compete safely this weekend.”

Last week, the population positive rate was above 7.5% percent, a threshold in which the Big Ten asks teams to proceed with caution and increase their COVID-19 precautions. The general population of the Buckeyes’ program is 170 players, coaches and staff members who are tested daily for the virus, meaning at least 13 people were found to be positive. 

Their test positivity rate remained below 5% last week, Borchers said. Had it also crossed that threshold, Ohio State would have been required by the Big Ten to suspend all team activities for seven days. The test positivity rate is the number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered, according to the league's protocols.

Ohio State has not said how many individuals within the program have tested positive for COVID-19 beyond coach Ryan Day, who will not be on the sideline against Michigan State and is required to remain in isolation until at least Monday.

Day will be replaced by defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who is serving as the acting head coach.

The Buckeyes had essentially no coronavirus cases within their program this season, Borchers said, before seeing a spike on the eve of Thanksgiving. 

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The quick return to the field for the Buckeyes would be unprecedented in the Big Ten during this pandemic-disrupted season.

When virus outbreaks led Maryland, Minnesota and Wisconsin to cancel games this season, the spread throughout their program was severe enough that it led them to call off a second consecutive game.

Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith said last week they thought a pause in activities gave them the best opportunity to control their outbreak and return to the field this weekend.

Along with daily antigen testing, Ohio State said it relied on increased polymerase chain reaction testing surveillance in recent days. PCR tests are considered to be more accurate than antigen tests.

On his weekly radio show on 97.1 The Fan on Thursday, Day said the Buckeyes will be shorthanded at Michigan State. 

That stems from positive coronavirus tests, contact tracing requirements or other football-related injuries, though Day did not divulge specifics.

The team is scheduled to release an availability report for the game against the Spartans on Saturday morning. 

A final round of COVID-19 testing had also been scheduled for 8 p.m. ahead of traveling to Michigan State, Day said Thur