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Iowa Football Pauses Team Activities Due to COVID-19

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Iowa’s first bout with the coronavirus impacting games comes at an unfortunate time.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa
Despite the mask, Kirk Ferentz has tested positive for COVID-19.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes are scheduled to take on the Missouri Tigers in the Music City Bowl on December 30th. Nine days ahead of kickoff, the Hawkeyes have officially paused in person activities following additional positive COVID-19 tests within the program.

In a story that developed Monday afternoon into Monday evening, there’s a lot to piece together. During press availability on Monday afternoon, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta confirmed there had been 14 positive COVID-19 tests within the athletic department.

This came on the heels of the announcement on Friday that head coach Kirk Ferentz had tested positive for the virus.

As noted by the Des Moines Register’s Chad Leistikow, the team had been on break and allowed to return home for the first time all season following finals last week. They were set to return to practice on Tuesday, December 22nd in preparation for the bowl game just 8 days later.

Now, those workouts will not take place after Leistikow broke the news Monday night that of the 14 positive tests reported, 6 were for Iowa coaches.

No details have been released on the other 8 positive results and that’s not likely to change. It’s safe to assume those 8 cases are players rather than coaches or staff given those were specifically called out, but as to who or what position group those players may be in.

Per Big Ten protocols, the Hawkeyes are required to pause workouts if the team’s 7-day rolling average of confirmed positives reaches 5% of players or 7.5% for the total football population, which includes players, coaches and staff. With roughly 170 individuals included in that population, a pause is required with more than 13 positive tests. As noted above by HawkeyeReport’s Tom Kakert, Iowa hit that on Monday.

So where does Iowa go from here? Per the press release sent out Monday evening (see below), the Hawkeyes intend to still try to play.

Leistikow reports the team held a vote on Monday afternoon after learning of the current situation and was overwhelmingly in favor of moving forward with playing provided they can meet the Big Ten’s requirements. It’s worth noting those rules have changed slightly recently.

While Iowa will be required to pause activities for at minimum five days, head coach Kirk Ferentz and the five other staff members who tested positive will be required to quarantine for 10 days and may return to practice after 24 hours without symptoms. For Ferentz, that means a return after the Christmas break on Saturday, December 26th. Kakert reports the team intends to return the same day.

While Ferentz and other coaches can get back to action after 10 days, the impacted players will be missing the bowl game. Despite reducing their quarantine period from 21 days to 17 in preparation for bowl season, that won’t be enough time to get anyone back who has tested positive since December 16th.

So Iowa will be without 8 players at minimum when they take on Missouri on December 30th. Will there be more positives? Possibly. As noted, the players are returning to campus after their first break since the season started more than two months ago. They will continue to undergo testing and any new positives will extend the pause.

As discouraging as it may be for Iowa to be on hold this week, it’s also worth noting that the Hawkeyes aren’t necessarily losing ground to their opponent in terms of practice time this week. Missouri was already scheduled to be off all week, returning to practice on Saturday as well.

Ultimately, that leaves just three days of practice for each team ahead of the matchup on the 30th, assuming each team takes a travel day between now and then. That’s not to say the teams can’t do installs, review film and participate in individual activities in the interim. Iowa is almost certainly going to be doing much of that work remotely. But the table is set for a pair of teams playing on December 30th who look a little rusty.

That is if they play at all.