In contrast to a regular season opening, the UW-Madison campus was a ghost town Friday night.
The lights at Camp Randall Stadium came on Friday night, signaling the season opener for the UW Badgers football team. But the revelry normally associated with college sports was nowhere to be found—another coronavirus casualty.
The team’s first at-home game against the Illinois Fighting Illini was an easy 45-7 win.
The delayed season opener was due to the surge in coronavirus cases both on campus and across the state. With no fans allowed in the stadium, UW Interim System President Tommy Thompson warned students tailgating would not be allowed, either.
A large number of police officers patrolled the perimeter of the stadium and stationed themselves at the entrances of campus parking lots that had been closed for the night.
Routinely named one of the top party schools in the country—it currently holds the title in one notable online survey —UW-Madison is notorious for its game day bar-packing, house-party atmosphere.
Bars where crowds would normally be packed shoulder-to-shoulder like Lucky’s, Jordan’s Big Ten Pub, and Sconnie Bar, had sparse crowds.
The porches and front lawns of fraternity and sorority houses that line Langdon Street near the stadium sat oddly empty of beer kegs and beer pong tables.
The Badgers will kick off their next home game against Purdue at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at Camp Randall Stadium.
Whether Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz will be taking the field that day remains up in the air. Sources told the Wisconsin State Journal Sunday that Mertz tested positive for COVID-19 after taking a rapid antigen test. Per protocol, Mertz then took a nasal swab test in order to confirm the positive result. It usually takes one day for test results.
If Mertz is positive, the freshman quarterback will have to sit out practices and games for at least 21 days, according to the Big Ten Conference’s protocols.