Illinois coach Bret Bielema will miss Iowa game after testing positive for COVID-19

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Illinois coach Bret Bielema won't be on the sideline for his team's game against Iowa on Saturday.

Illinois announced Tuesday that Bielema had tested positive for COVID-19. Bielema said in a statement that he had been vaccinated and recently received a booster shot.

“After developing mild symptoms yesterday, I was tested and unfortunately late Monday night tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19," Bielema said. "I’m disappointed that I will not be with our team this week when we travel to Iowa but I’m grateful that I’m vaccinated and received the booster shot last week. Going back to last spring and this fall, I have set protocol for anyone on our staff who may be removed due to COVID, including myself as a head coach.”

Assistant coach George McDonald will be the team's acting head coach in Bielema's absence.

Illinois is 4-6 in 2021 and must win its final two games to become bowl-eligible. The Illini play Northwestern on No. 27 to end the regular season. 

Bielema is not the first college football head coach to miss a game in 2021 because of COVID-19. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin missed his team's season-opening win over Louisville after testing positive for COVID-19, while interim UConn coach Lou Spanos also missed a game because of a positive COVID-19 test earlier this year. Kiffin and Spanos are also fully vaccinated.

Thanks to the vaccine, college football hasn't been nearly as impacted by COVID-19 in 2021 as it was a season ago. Cal's game vs. USC last week became the first FBS game postponed this season due to COVID-19 after numerous Cal players couldn't play because of the city of Berkeley's quarantine rules. The biggest coronavirus-related storyline this season has been the firing of unvaccinated Washington State coach Nick Rolovich.

Rolovich was fired after he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine in defiance of a state of Washington mandate. He's appealed his firing in preparation of a lawsuit after he was fired for cause and didn't receive his buyout.

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