Following several days of rumors and hearsay, the Big Ten has finally made it official. The conference announced on Wednesday that fall sports will be played this year, with the football season set to get underway the weekend of October 24.
The Big Ten’s panel of 14 school presidents and chancellors voted unanimously in favor of resuming competition. The conference also has more faith in the progress that has been made with regard to the health situation around the country.
Every football team in the Big Ten will play an eight-game regular-season schedule across eight weeks, giving college football bettors plenty of action. That obviously leaves very little breathing room when it comes to possible postponements or cancellations. The Big Ten championship game is set for Saturday, December 19, and that day will also feature an additional ninth, cross-division game for each team, bringing every team’s total to nine.
The Big Ten will finish its season one day before the College Football Playoff selections are announced on December 20. The conference has agreed that no fans will be permitted to attend football games at any school this season. While the league is trying to figure out a plan that will allow families of players and staff to attend certain games, those details are still being finalized.
Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin’s athletic director, said that an official football schedule will be released at some point before the end of the week. In a statement, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said,
“Great news today. Over the past month, I could sense the anticipation from our players and coaches, and I’m thrilled on their behalf that they will have a chance to play a 2020 season. Stay positive. Test negative. Let’s play football.”
Back on August 11, the Big Ten voted to postpone all fall sports until the spring of 2021 as the pandemic worsened around the United States. The same committee of presidents and chancellors that voted unanimously to resume play voted 11-3 in favor of postponement just over a month ago. Only Nebraska, Iowa, and Ohio State voted to push forward with the season at the time.
For some reason, the president weighed in:
After the league voted to postpone sports, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren put together a task force with the goal of coming up with a plan to potentially resume play. This past weekend, that task force made a presentation to every school in the conference that included details about daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac exams, contact tracing, and other key health elements involved in allowing the season to safely proceed.
Starting September 30, the league will test players and staff every day across all 14 conference campuses. Test results must be conclusive and recorded prior to each practice or game.
Any athlete that tests positive for the virus through the testing program will have to wait at least 21 days before returning to action. Those players will undergo cardiac testing and must be cleared by a cardiologist before they can rejoin their team. There are concerns that inflammation of the heart caused by contracting the virus could have long-term effects, which played a role in the conference’s initial choice to postpone play.
If any team’s positivity rate is above 5 percent, that team must cancel practice and avoid playing games for at least one full week.
Ohio State’s head team physician, Dr. Jim Borchers, said,
“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. 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.”
The Big Ten’s testing plan is similar to that of the Pac-12. However, the Pac-12 canceled its season shortly after the Big Ten did last month, and there are currently no firm plans for that conference to reconsider. There are rumors that the Pac-12 is considering a return in November, but commissioner Larry Scott has not confirmed any plan. The Pac-12 also has additional concerns about air quality amid the rampant wildfires currently plaguing the west coast.
The Big Ten will now join six other FBS conferences, including the Big 12, SEC, and ACC, in playing football this fall. The SEC is set to begin its football schedule on September 26.
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