Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema tests positive for COVID-19, will miss Saturday’s game at Iowa


Cameron Krasucki

Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema walks out of the tunnel during the team’s game against Wisconsin on Oct. 9. Bielema has tested positive for COVID-19, he announced Tuesday morning.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not travel to Iowa for the team’s game on Saturday. Assistant head coach/wide receivers coach George McDonald will serve as head coach against the Hawkeyes.

Bielema is fully vaccinated, and he said he received his booster shot last week, though he reportedly experienced mild symptoms this weekend after going out on the recruiting trail during Illinois’ bye week last week.

“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,” Bielema said on Tuesday, via a press release. “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 Illini must win their final two games of the season — Saturday at Iowa and Nov. 27 at home against Northwestern — to become bowl eligible in Bielema’s first season in Champaign.

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“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, via a press release. “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.”



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