Big Ten football is back.
Thirty-five days after the Big Ten Council of President and Chancellors (COP/C) voted to postpone the season due to concerns around COVID-19, those same presidents and chancellors decided to bring football back.
“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes. Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful for the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished to ensure the health, safety and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”
The season will begin the weekend of Oct. 23/24 and each team will play eight games and then a unique championship week that will feature all 14 teams. UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said the teams from the East and West divisions will matchup and play each other based on the final standings, with the champions of each facing off in the title game Dec. 19. The College Football Playoff pairing will be announced the following day.
The decision to play the season comes after the return-to-play committee presented a plan to the COP/C that addressed their issues in postponing the season to begin with — ability for rapid virus testing, overcoming contact tracing efforts and how myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, was impacted by the virus.
The conference announced Wednesday it had adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice and competition.
Players, coaches, trainers and others that are on the field for practice and games will undergo daily testing and they must be completed before every activity.
One of the key members in putting the protocols together was Ohio State team physician Dr. Jim Borchers.
“Everyone associated with the Big Ten should be very proud of the groundbreaking steps that are now being taken to better protect the health and safety of the student-athletes and surrounding communities,” Borchers said in a statement.
“The data we are going to collect from testing and the cardiac registry will provide major contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities.”
Players that test positive will have to go through a battery of tests to get back on the field and the earliest they can return is 21 days after a positive diagnosis. Also,
Northwestern president Morton Schapiro is the chair of the COP/C.
“From the onset of the pandemic, our highest priority has been the health and the safety of our students. The new medical protocols and standards put into place by the Big Ten Return To Competition Task Force were pivotal in the decision to move forward with sports in the conference,” Schapiro said in statement. “We appreciate the conference’s dedication to developing the necessary safety procedures for our students and the communities that embrace them.”