No. 3 Ohio State canceled its scheduled football game at Illinois on Saturday, the school’s leadership announced late Friday night.
The cancellation came after another round of testing for COVID-19 on Friday released more positives within the program, Ohio State said in a release. The Buckeyes (4-0) were to have a noon start against the Fighting Illini at Champaign, Ill.
Ohio State wasn’t going to travel to Illinois until Saturday morning.
The Big Ten Conference has no room in its calendar for a makeup date. The game will not be played this season.
“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decision on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”
The Buckeyes (4-0) were ranked fourth in the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday. However, Ohio State could be left out of the Big Ten’s conference championship game if it is forced to cancel either of its final two games.
The Big Ten’s coronavirus protocols include the stipulation that teams must play a minimum of six games this season to be eligible for a division title and a spot in the conference title game. The Buckeyes’ game at Maryland on Nov. 14 was already canceled due to COVID-19 issues with the Terrapins.
Ohio State will need to play its final two games — Dec. 5 at Michigan State and Dec. 12 vs. Michigan — to remain eligible for the title game.
Ohio State said the decision to cancel was made jointly by Smith, president Kristina M. Johnson and head team physician Jim Borchers in consultation with the Big Ten. The school announced an immediate pause to team activities, which will not resume until “medical staff determines it is safe to do so based on protocols established by the Big Ten Conference.”
Earlier Friday, Ohio State announced head coach Ryan Day would miss the game because of his own positive test for COVID-19 with assistant head coach/defensive line coach Larry Johnson to serve in the head role on an interim basis.
On Friday, several media reports indicated an unknown number of Buckeye players in more than one position group had tested positive for COVID-19. Ohio State had not confirmed any number of positive tests within the program or listed players or staff members affected except for Day.