COVID-19 cancellations begin to affect college football eligibility, cause NCAA to change requirements


Phil Roeder (Flickr)

The Wisconsin Badgers are currently ineligible for the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 19

Jackson Dungan, Reporter

The cancellation of college football games is beginning to impact the eligibility of some teams for postseason play.

None more than the Wisconsin Badgers.

Before the Big Ten conference even decided to play football this fall, Wisconsin was ranked as high as #12 in the first preseason AP poll on Aug. 24.  Only two spots below current #2 Notre Dame.

Once the conference began their COVID-delayed seasoned, the Badgers burst out of the gates with a 45-7 drubbing of Illinois, but had to slam on the brakes to deal with a coronavirus outbreak in their program.  The rash of infections caused them to have to cancel their next two games against Nebraska and Purdue respectively.

Just as the COVID situation seemed to stabilize for Wisconsin, the Minnesota Golden Gophers had an outbreak, forcing the cancellation of one of the longest rivalries in college football, the “Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe”, which was scheduled for today.

“We will continue to rely on the guidance of our medical experts as we navigate the next several days,” Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle told the Associated Press. “We are doing everything we possibly can to miss the fewest amount of days possible. Our goal is to be healthy enough and ready to compete on December 5 against Northwestern.”

In order to be eligible for their championship game, the Big Ten has stipulated that teams participate in six of their eight scheduled games. With the cancellation of this week’s game against the Gophers, Wisconsin will only be able to play a maximum of five of their eight games, making them ineligible for a conference championship game in which they were considered a top contender.

Ohio State is the next top team in the conference on the verge of not being eligible for the championship after having to cancel this weekend’s game against Illinois.

The team had a game against Maryland cancelled earlier in the season.

Head coach Ryan Day is among those currently testing positive for the Buckeyes.

The NCAA has recently announced that the usual six-win requirement for bowl eligibility has been waived this season and teams will be able to compete regardless of their records.  As long as teams meet the academic requirements, all 127 FBS teams are considered eligible for a bowl game. However, only 78 teams will participate in postseason play.

At this time, it is not known whether this new prerequisite will be continued for the 2021 college football season.

There are a number of teams who have already failed to meet the academic requirements of a minimum 50 percent graduation rate.

Howard University, McNeese State, Prairie View A&M, and Stephen F. Austin have all been declared disqualified for bowl season due to the 2020 bowl requirements not being met.

Bowl Season will run for six weeks beginning on Dec. 1 and ending Jan. 11.