Iowa resumes football practice after COVID-19 outbreak, clearing big hurdle to play in Music City Bowl

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Iowa held a football practice for the first time in 11 days on Saturday morning, a key step in proceeding for the upcoming TransPerfect Music City Bowl.

The Hawkeyes’ program had been on pause since Monday, after players returned to the facility but with six coaches (and several other players and staff members) self-isolating after testing positive COVID-19 tests.

The team was back on the practice field Saturday, the Register confirmed through a university spokesman. For those wondering whether Wednesday's Music City Bowl against Missouri was going to take place, this was a notable development. Based on Big Ten Conference protocols, Iowa would not have been able to practice if it had a seven-day rolling average of 5% daily positive tests among players. Even if Iowa is short-handed (how many players are absent is not likely to be revealed through official channels), Saturday marked a positive sign that it can play the game as scheduled.

The Hawkeyes (6-2) are two-touchdown favorites against Missouri, which was also scheduled to resume practice Saturday after Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz gave his players a holiday break.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was hopeful to return to practice this weekend after his confirmed positive COVID-19 test on Dec. 17. He was pictured in the team's practice photos released on social media late Saturday morning.

In a Zoom call with Iowa media earlier this week, Ferentz said he wasn't overly concerned with the notion of having limited preparation time heading into the bowl game, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Isolating coaches have been able to proceed with game-planning for the Tigers, and Saturday's practice in Iowa City marked the equivalent of a Tuesday during a normal game week. The Hawkeyes will ideally practice Sunday and Monday in Iowa City before their planned departure Tuesday for Nashville.

Missouri, in contrast, was planning to have two practices on site in Nashville. 

Iowa hadn't practiced since Dec. 15, the day its "Champions Week" game against Michigan was canceled over COVID-19 issues in the Wolverines' program. Players were given the rest of the week off after a 6-2 regular season, then returned Monday to learn of the program pause. A leadership-group discussion and vote that evening affirmed Iowa's intent to try to play in the Music City Bowl, despite the layoff and having several players test positive for COVID-19. Saturday's development pushed the Hawkeyes one step closer to playing their ninth and final game of 2020.

The Hawkeyes enter the Music City Bowl as two-touchdown favorites against Missouri.