CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — It normally takes the Illinois football team longer to go through security, board the private charter plane and take off, than the actual flight time to Madison. The 40-ish minute trip to Wisconsin is a thing of the past for the Illini this season, as they will bus across state lines instead. COVID-19 has impacted travel plans for college football teams across the country this fall, including Illinois, as safety and budget constraints are more important now than ever.
The Illini will head north on Thursday as they get set to play the 14th-ranked Badgers on Friday night at 7 p.m. The team will undergo its Big Ten mandated antigen testing on Thursday morning, before hopping on the bus for the 250-mile one-way trip to Wisconsin. The tests are handled by two third-party companies, Biodesix, Inc., a leading diagnostic company with a focus on lung disease, and Quidel Corporation, the manufacturer of the FDA-authorized SOFIA 2 SARS rapid antigen test. The rapid result tests will be administered once again on Friday morning before the game.
Once the smaller than normal traveling party gets to the hotel, no one will be allowed to leave until they get back on the bus to make the trip to Camp Randall Stadium for the game. Afterwards, it’s right back on the bus, headed back to Champaign. Illini head coach Lovie Smith has praised the Big Ten and its policies on handling the coronavirus and his opinion hasn’t changed leading up to the game, despite Wisconsin’s state positivity rate at 22.6 percent on Wednesday.
“We talk about concentrating on the things that we can control,” Smith said during his weekly Zoom press conference on Monday. “You talked about the positivity rate in the state of Wisconsin, we’re not going to be there at all of those places. We are going to spend the night there the night before, but we’re going to get on the bus, right to the hotel, and we trust the protocols that they have in place there. There’s a lot of things on our mind about this Wisconsin game, but being safe is not one of them.”
Illinois is a 19.5-point underdog at Wisconsin, watch the game on Big Ten Network starting at 7 p.m.