By Colten Bartholomew, Wisconsin State Journal
Players’ parents will no longer be allowed at the University of Wisconsin football team’s opener the weekend of Oct. 24.
In a release this week, the university announced it could not host the estimated 1,500 people it expect at the Badgers’ season debut against Illinois due to the increase of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the state.
Only essential personnel — players and coaches from both teams, public safety officers, stadium operations personnel and a limited number of media — will be allowed into the stadium. UW faces Illinois either Oct. 23 or 24, with the game’s date and start time yet to be determined.
“Given the high rates of infection in the state of Wisconsin, we don’t want anyone in the stadium who doesn’t need to be there. I’ve said that our fans should think about all of our football games as away games this year,” UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in the statement.
“We’re asking fans in Madison to follow public health guidelines and avoid gatherings with anyone outside their household. We’re asking our fans around the state to watch the games at home.”
The Big Ten Conference isn’t allowing the public sale of tickets this season. But last week during a Joint Campus Area Committee meeting, senior associate athletic director Jason King said the athletic department was preparing for about 900 parents between both teams.
“It’s unfortunate that circumstances will no longer allow us to invite families to attend, but we support this decision and know that the safety of our students, staff and community has to be our top priority,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in the statement. “We know Badger games are usually a time when we can come together, but right now we are urging everyone to watch our games safely and responsibly.”
During the Joint Campus Area Committee meeting, concerns of gatherings around the stadium and in the city were voiced, as those gatherings could continue to spread COVID-19.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) applauded the university’s decision in a release.
“As Wisconsin emerges as a COVID hotspot in the country, adding over 16,000 new cases in the last week alone with a 7-day positivity rate of 17%, the University is taking the right step to protect the health of all Wisconsinites,” Pocan said.
“We applaud their renewed dedication to the health and safety of UW students, surrounding communities and the people of Wisconsin as our local government works to contain this pandemic. We all have a duty to work together during this time to ensure that our actions don’t harm others. We must continue practicing social distancing, limiting indoor gatherings and most importantly wearing a mask. Together, Wisconsin can beat this pandemic—go Badgers.”