Iowa vs. Michigan football game called off over COVID-19 issues within Wolverines' program

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Iowa's game against Michigan on Saturday has been canceled over rising COVID-19 numbers within the Wolverines' football program, the Register has confirmed.

It's the first game involving the 6-2 Hawkeyes this season that has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The teams were scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium as part of the Big Ten Conference's "Champions Week" lineup.

It is unlikely, but not impossible, that Iowa could schedule a different opponent for Saturday but first one within the conference would have to come available, per Big Ten protocols. Earlier on Tuesday, Indiana-Purdue was canceled in a joint statement between the schools. It is not believed either program would be available to play a game Saturday.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, later Tuesday, said he was opposed to the idea of a rescheduled game.

“If there’s any talk about that, I’m not aware of it. And I’d certainly be against it,” Ferentz said. “This isn’t baseball, with all due respect to baseball.

“Our staff’s been working hard since Sunday morning getting ready for this game. To try to flip it over and play somebody else this weekend, it wouldn’t be fair to the sport. Most of all, it wouldn’t be fair to our players. It wouldn’t be representative of the team we’d want to put on the field."

The cancellation effectively ends the season for Michigan at 2-4, with questions swirling around Jim Harbaugh's coaching future in Ann Arbor in Year 6 of a rich seven-year deal.

Kinnick Stadium would have been an interesting and perhaps fitting locale for the Harbaugh era to end. The one-time Iowa City resident has experienced two high-profile losses at Kinnick — in 1985 as Michigan’s quarterback in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown won by Iowa; then in 2016 when the second-ranked Wolverines lost as three-touchdown favorites on a last-second field goal by Keith Duncan.

Consider this stat: Before that 2016 loss in Iowa City, the Harbaugh era was off to a 19-3 start. Since, Michigan has gone 30-19 — hardly the rate of success required to stick around long-term in Ann Arbor, especially when you’ve never beaten Ohio State.

Iowa players conducted interviews late Tuesday morning expecting a game to be played Saturday. However, the news of the cancellation came about just after 1 p.m. CT.

“We’re not really focused on what’s going on in Michigan, we’re just focused on the Hawkeyes,” said Iowa wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr., who was excited for the opportunity to get more playing time with senior wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette not expected to play. “Taking it one day at a time. If it happens, it happens. If it gets canceled, it gets canceled.”

The most likely next chance for Iowa (6-2) to extend its six-game winning streak would be in a bowl game. The Hawkeyes have valued every opportunity to date and would value one more, Ferentz said. Bowl selections will be made Sunday.