By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Footbal Writer/Analyst
November 16, 2021
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema has tested positive for COVID-19.
The university athletics department confirmed the news of Bielema’s diagnosis Tuesday morning.
As a result of the positive test, Bielema must be quarantined away from the players and staff members of the Illini football team and the first-year head coach will not be allowed to be on the sidelines Saturday when Illinois plays at No. 18 Iowa.
“After developing mild symptoms yesterday, I was tested and unfortunately late Monday night tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19,” Bielema said via a statement in the university media release.
Bielema confirmed that wide receiver coach/assistant head coach George McDonald will be the Illini’s acting head coach this Saturday at Iowa. Bielema’s media statement claims he is vaccinated and received a booster shot last week.
“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,” Bielema’s statement reads. “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.”
All Illinois football media availability this week, including Bielema’s Monday media conference, were restricted to Zoom video conferencing due to what Bielema said was a couple of staff members testing positive for COVID-19 a few days prior.
“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,” Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman said via a statement in the university release. “As with every other part of the program, Coach [Bielema] 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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