Rising COVID-19 cases prompt Notre Dame football to pause workouts come Monday

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

A little over a month before Notre Dame football is expected to begin spring practices, the program experienced its first COVID-19-related hiccup of 2021.

A source confirmed a report Saturday by Irish Illustrated that the team will pause its winter workouts, beginning Monday, because of COVID cases within the program. However, all other football activities would proceed, per the source, including training table, meetings and medical treatments.

There is no timetable yet for when workouts might resume.

The Irish hadn’t halted football-related activities since a large outbreak within the program following a 52-0 home victory over South Florida on Sept. 19 prompted a nine-day hiatus from practicing, the rearranging of the team’s schedule and a significant revamping of ND football’s COVID-19 protocols.

Notre Dame returned to game action on Oct. 10 against Florida State and had minimal positive tests and disruptions through the end of the season. The Irish concluded their 2020 schedule, Jan. 1 in the College Football Playoff semifinals with a 31-14 loss to eventual national champion Alabama.

While positive cases, positivity rate (4.3%), deaths and hospitalizations continue to plummet in Indiana, the number of positive cases are running counter to that on the Notre Dame campus since it resumed testing and logging data on Jan. 18.

Spring-semester classes resumed Feb. 3. And, per WSBT reporter Tolly Taylor, the 551 cases logged on the university COVID dashboard in the two and a half weeks since classes started represent almost 30% of the total positive cases (1,871) reported during the fall semester.

Of those 551, 342 were deemed active cases, with 29 new ones added on Friday.

That high infection rate has affected other Irish sports. Among them, the ND baseball team had to call off its season-opening trip to Baton Rouge, La., where the Irish were to face Air Force, Louisiana Tech and seventh-ranked LSU this weekend.

The ND women’s basketball team had two games postponed this past week, Monday against fourth-ranked NC State and Thursday against Syracuse.

Exact dates have not yet been announced for Notre Dame spring football, but the Irish are expected to start in late March, with the majority of the 15 spring sessions to take place in April.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly (left) and ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick have their first COVID challenge of 2021 as the Irish will pause winter workouts on Monday.