CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Illinois head coach Bret Bielema has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not coach against Iowa this weekend, per the team.
“After developing mild symptoms yesterday, I was tested and unfortunately late Monday night tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19,” says Bielema through a team statement. “I’m disappointed that I will not be with our team this week when we travel to Iowa, but I’m grateful that I’m vaccinated and received the booster shot last week. Going back to last spring and this fall, I have a set protocol for anyone on our staff who may be removed due to COVID, including myself as a head coach. Our players and coaches have prepared for 10 games already this year and today’s news will just be a continuation of that process. Through technology, I will be as present as possible, however, when I can’t be present our assistant head coach George McDonald will handle those moments. George and I have had discussions before today if this situation would arise and I have full confidence in him and our staff in preparation for Iowa. If all stays on the current path, I should be available and present for next week. Our team has shown repeatedly this year that next man up is the standard not the exception and this will be another example of this mentality in our Illini FamILLy.”
The team had gone on Zoom for this week’s media availabilities for precautionary reasons. Bielema said in his press conference yesterday only one player on the team had tested positive all season, and it was not a player on the two deep.
“Unfortunately, we are being reminded every day that the pandemic is not over – a point brought home by this most recent news regarding Coach Bielema,” said Athletic Director Josh Whitman in a statement. “As with every other part of the program, Coach and the football staff have a plan for this contingency, and they began executing on that plan overnight. Coach will remain as involved as possible throughout the week, and we are confident in Coach McDonald’s ability to serve in his place where needed, including during the game at Iowa on Saturday. In the meantime, our medical staff is taking all necessary steps to ensure that we are monitoring the team and taking appropriate precautions to limit any potential spread within the program. I have great confidence in our staff and players, and I look forward to another strong performance in Iowa City this week.”
Assistant head coach George McDonald will be the acting head coach against Iowa.