Well, this isn't good news. As first reported by The Des Moines Register's Chad Leistikow, Iowa has paused all workouts and practice activity this week through Friday, due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests among the coaching staff.
NEWS: Iowa football pausing workouts through Friday after 6 coaches test positive for COVID-19, the Register can confirm, ahead of the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl. More details: https://t.co/uXGcquy2vb— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) December 22, 2020
The university then confirmed that football activities would be paused for a "minimum" of five days. Here's the university statement, from Gary Barta:
“As I shared this morning, last week we experienced an increase in positives cases within our football program. Our student-athletes returned to testing today and based on additional positive tests and contact tracing, our medical team has made the decision to pause in-person activities for a minimum of five days. We will continue to follow Big Ten Conference medical protocol and participate in daily rapid antigen testing. Based on the information we have available today, we feel confident in our ability to participate in the TransPerfect Music City bowl.”
We know that one of the coaches in question is Kirk Ferentz, of course, as we found out that he tested positive for COVID-19 late last week. He hasn't reported any symptoms beyond a persistent cough and is currently spending 10 days in isolation, as required by Big Ten protocols for coaches. He could return this weekend (Sunday) if he's been symptom-free for at least 24 hours. That 10-day isolation period would also apply to the other coaches who have tested positive, though when theirs would start (and end) is not yet known. For now, all practice activities will happen virtually.
Leistikow also offered further details about when a pause in practice activities is required by Big Ten protocols:
According to Big Ten protocols, a pause is required if the team's seven-day rolling average of confirmed positive tests crosses a 5% rate and the positivity of total football population (athletes, coaches, staff) crosses 7.5%. That latter half computes to 13 or more positives out of roughly "Tier 1" individuals.
The Music City Bowl is scheduled for Wednesday, December 30. Iowa was planning to fly to Nashville for the game on Tuesday, December 29. As Barta noted in his statement, Iowa still plans to play in the game at this time.
However, as we've seen all fall with similar situations at other programs, these situations tend to evolve rapidly. Iowa seemed to have unusually good fortune when it came to COVID-19, both within their own program and among their respective opponents in a given week, during the the regular season; they were one of just three Big Ten teams (along with Rutgers and Penn State) to play all eight of their initially scheduled regular season games. Now it seems as though that good fortune may have run out. We'll continue to update this story throughout the week as further news becomes available.