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University Of Michigan Cancels Ohio State Game Due To COVID-19 Cases

Ohio State running back Demario McCall, left, is tackled by Michigan defenders Tyree Kinnel, center, and Devin Bush on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Columbus.
Jay LaPrete
Associated Press

The University of Michigan has canceled its annual football rivalry game against The Ohio State University as the number of COVID-19 cases on its team increases.

This marks the first time in over a century that the two schools have not met on the football field.

"We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time," said Warde Manuel, Michigan's athletics director, in a statement. "Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals. This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making."

Michigan says the decision was made after discussions with medical professionals, athletic department staff, athletic trainers and doctors.

"We are all disappointed, especially for our players and their families, that Xichigan is unable to play The Game this year," said Ohio State president Kristina Johnson in a tweet, crossing out Michigan's "M" with the traditional red X. "Right now, our focus is on our student-athletes and what is best for them. We are in discussions with the Big Ten about possible next steps."

The Big Ten Conference called the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry "one of the most important rivalries in all of sports" in a statement Tuesday afternoon. The conference says it will work with its member schools to determine the requirements for the Big Ten championship game, as well as tiebreakers.

Current Big Ten rules say teams must play at least six games to quality for the conference championship, unless all conference teams play an average of less than six, which has not happened.

Ohio State is currently 5-0 and ranked fourth in the country. Following the conference title games, a committee picks the top four teams to play for the national championship. 

In a Tuesday press conference just before the cancelation was announced, head coach Ryan Day said the conference should lift the six-game requirement if the Michigan game was called off. There have been reports of such possible changes to help put Ohio State, the conference's only remaining unbeaten team, in a position to make the playoff.

Since the football season resumed in October, both Ohio State and Michigan – along with a majority of the other Big Ten teams – have experienced issues with COVID-19 among their ranks.

After Buckeyes coach Ryan Day and several players tested positive for COVID-19, the team canceled its game against Illinois last month. The team then played through what Day called a mini outbreak on Saturday, winning 52-12 at Michigan State while Day quarantined at home.

Meanwhile, Michigan canceled last Saturday's game against the University of Maryland, which in November had to scrap its own matchagainst Ohio State.

The University of Michigan has not released information on how many athletes have tested positive in the past few weeks.

This story will be updated with more information.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.