SIU's rivalry game pushed back a week due to opponent's positive COVID tests

SIU's rivalry game pushed back a week due to opponent's positive COVID tests
Southern Illinois' lone fall game will be played Oct. 30, a week later than originally planned. (photo courtesy of siusalukis.com)

Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri State announced Tuesday that their football game has been pushed back a week because of positive COVID-19 tests.

"We recently had some positive cases and paused workouts with an abundance of caution," said SEMO Director of Athletics Brady Barke said in a statement posted on the athletic department website. "We want to make sure our student-athletes are safe in every opportunity they have to compete."

SEMO did not reveal an exact number instead stating "some positive COVID cases" as the reason for the game being moved from its original Oct. 23 date.

The game — the only one that SIU will play this fall — is now scheduled for Oct. 30 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. Start time is 6 p.m.

According to the SIU athletics website, seating capacity for the game will be limited to 20 percent, based upon a plan approved by the campus Emergency Operations Center and with guidance from the state of Illinois and Jackson County Health Department.

Due to the attendance restrictions, SIU Director of Athletics Liz Jarnigan said ticketing will be modified to include season-ticket holders, SIU students and player families only.

Safety measures will include socially-distanced, assigned seating. Tailgating will not be permitted, and fans will be required to wear a mask or facial covering upon entering the stadium. It can be removed while eating or drinking. Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the stadium.

SIU head coach Nick Hill addressed the media Tuesday afternoon. He said that SIU has seen only one positive in its latest round of testing.

"Both sides agreeing to the date," Hill said when asked how the game's change came about. "Obviously you see around college athletics, you see around pro football, you see around every sport. We're tested every single week making sure that position groups and your team have full strength.

"Everybody's got to be ready to play. Like I told our team, there are no 1s, 2s and 3s. Everybody's a one."

Hill, the former Saluki quarterback, and SEMO head coach Tom Matukewicz are longtime friends as well as current rivals.  Matukewicz spent seven seasons at SIU.  As Salukis' linebackers coach and run-game coordinator, he was a key part in three Missouri Valley Football Conference championships (2003-2005) and five NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths (2003-2007). 

"We're in constant communication with SEMO, making sure that that date is the right date (to play)," Hill said.

Hill said that SIU tests its players and staff each week.

"I think today is my 11th test," Hill said. "Our numbers are good. We want both sides to remain healthy and be at full strength when we play the game."

This year marks the 88th meeting for SEMO and SIU in a series that dates back to 1909 when the teams crossed the Mississippi River by boat to play. The game is now known as the "War for the Wheel" in reference to the ship's wheel trophy which goes to the winner.

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