COVID-19 claims annual Michigan-Ohio State game

Football. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / dehooks

The coronavirus has blown the whistle on one of the fiercest rivalries in North American college sports.

This Saturday’s annual football game between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes has been cancelled due to an outbreak within the Wolverines’ program. The development was reported by CBS Sports and later confirmed by the University of Michigan.

“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” said U of M Athletic Director Warde Manuel. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals. This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety are paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making.”

There has been no official comment from Ohio State University, where the clash, nicknamed “The Game” would have been played Saturday. However, CBS reported that Buckeye head coach Ryan Day had been pushing for a contingency plan to allow Ohio State to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game. The cancellation of the Michigan game puts the 5-0 Ohio State out of the required six-game threshold needed.

The cancellation is the latest occurrence in what has been a very disappointing season for Michigan, which has a 2-4 record in the pandemic-shortened season. The team failed to win a home game for the first time in its history. There has also been speculation about the future of head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is nearing the end of his contract with U of M and has not beaten Ohio State in his entire six-season tenure.

Michigan’s game last week against the University of Maryland was also cancelled.

The two schools first played each other in 1897 and had played each year since 1918 without a break. The rivalry is so intense that an ESPN poll conducted in 2000 named Michigan-Ohio State the biggest rivalry in North American sports.