- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Maryland football team has informed the Big Ten conference it will not accept a bid for a bowl game due to the positive coronavirus cases within the program, according to a team spokesperson.

The team’s activities remain paused after a second coronavirus outbreak this season, with 15 players testing positive between Dec. 10 and Dec. 16. The latest outbreak canceled the Terrapins’ final game of the season, scheduled for Saturday against Michigan State.

Earlier in the season, 23 players and seven staff members — including coach Mike Locksley — tested positive for the coronavirus. That outbreak canceled the first meeting with the Spartans, as well as a matchup against Ohio State. A game against Michigan was nixed, too, because of positive cases within the Wolverines’ program.

Maryland joins a growing list of teams opting not to accept bowl bids this season. Boston College started the trend earlier in December, with athletic director Pat Kraft and coach Jeff Hafley saying the decision was made with considerable player input.

“For them to stay healthy and stay away from COVID, it took more out of them than anybody has any idea,” Hafley said (via ESPN). “They’re worn out. As we look now with other teams continuing to battle COVID, it’s getting worse, and for us to go through three weeks of practice, continue to stay healthy, continue to stay away from our families and then not know is the bowl game really going to happen? Are we going to miss Christmas with our families and then be told on the 25th that we’re really not going to play?

“These kids want to play football, but 11 games, nine in a row at one point, without having their mom or dad there after the game to hug them or say hello, the mental health of these kids is more important to me than anything. We decided the biggest reward we could give these players was to be able to go and let them finish finals and go spend time with their families. They’ve earned it, and they deserve it.”

A slew of teams followed suit, including Pittsburgh, Penn State, Michigan State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Maryland’s the latest one, finishing the campaign at 2-3. The Terrapins opened up the year with a lopsided loss to Northwestern, but they rebounded with consecutive wins against Minnesota and Penn State.

Then the season hit a snag, with two games canceled due to coronavirus cases. They returned, lost to Indiana, then missed the Michigan game. The overtime loss to Rutgers on Dec. 12 proved to be the last game of the season.

Now, Maryland turns its attention toward the 2021 campaign — Locksley’s third season in charge. The squad should return several key pieces, including quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and all of the team’s most impactful pass catchers. While running back Jake Funk will depart, the Terrapins still have several young backs and will welcome more in a talented recruiting class.

Locksley secured the 19th-best recruiting class in the country, per 247 Sports’ rankings. He added three four-star defensive talents, an aim to further bolster that unit as the coach hopes to turn Maryland into a competitive Big Ten squad.

“We feel good that the ones we’ve taken from this area are all very capable players to help us take the next step as a program,” Locksley said last week.

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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