Oct. 28 (UPI) -- The University of Wisconsin football program has canceled Saturday's game against Nebraska and halted team activities for at least seven days due to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases.
Wisconsin said 12 people within the Badgers football program tested positive in the last five days. Badgers football coach Paul Chryst was among six staff members among the group.
Six Wisconsin football players tested positive since the Badgers win over Illinois on Friday in Madison, Wis. Nebraska and Wisconsin's Big Ten matchup, which had been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Madison, Wis., will not be rescheduled.
"We have said from the beginning that the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members comes first," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement.
"Over the past several days, we have seen a rising number of student-athletes and staff contract the virus. The responsible thing for us to do is to pause football-related activities for at least seven days."
Chryst said he was tested Tuesday and received his positive result Wednesday morning. He said he has not experienced symptoms and is in isolation at home.
Sources also told the ESPN, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and CBS Sports on Tuesday that Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz received a second positive result this week after he first tested positive last weekend.
Backup quarterback Chase Wolf also tested positive for COVID-19 after the Badgers game on Friday.
Big Ten athletes who test positive must wait 21 days before they return to the field, in accordance with the conference's COVID-19 protocol.
Mertz, a redshirt freshman, completed 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns in the Badgers win over Illinois. He set school records for completion percentage (95.2) and touchdown passes for a single game.
Wisconsin issued a statement Sunday that said no players who participated in Friday's game tested positive or reported symptoms before the game. The school also said they would not release testing information for any individual athletes due to "medical privacy."
Big Ten protocol stipulates that if a team's positivity rate exceeds 5%, the team will not be allowed to play and its game will be declared no contest. The conference determines positivity rate by dividing the number of positive tests by the total number of tests administered.
"I am disappointed for our players and coaching staff who put so much into preparing to play each week," Chryst said. "But the safety of everyone in our program has to be our top priority and I support the decision made to pause our team activities."
Wisconsin's game against Illinois opened the 2020 Big Ten football season schedule, which was to begin in early September, but disrupted and delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference announced in September that it planned to suspend play until the spring 2021. Then, officials altered the plan and opted for a fall, conference-only schedule.
The Badgers' next home game is scheduled Nov. 7 against Purdue in Madison.