The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors has unanimously voted to resume the football season beginning in late October. The vote follows the adoption of “significant medical protocols,” including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening, and data-driven decisions about holding practices and games.
The conference says the decision to resume football followed a presentation by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, which was established “to ensure a collaborative and transparent process.”
The Big Ten Championship Game will be held December 19, at the conclusion of what Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez calls “a very unique champions week,” with teams from the East and West playing each other in what would be their ninth games.
The plan calls for the division winners to play for the conference championship as usual, with second-place teams from each division squaring off, third-place teams and on down to seventh place teams playing each other.
Alvarez says it is “to be determined” where the additional games will be played.
“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,” said Dr. Jim Borchers, co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee. “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.”
As part of the protocols, all student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other on-field personnel will be required to undergo daily antigen testing, which must be completed prior to each practice or game. Any student-athlete who tests positive for the novel coronavirus through the daily point-of-contact testing must undergo a polymerase chain reaction test to confirm the initial test result.
The daily testing will begin September 30.
Additionally, all student-athletes who test positive for COVID-19 will undergo comprehensive cardiac testing and must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by the university. All schools will also establish a cardiac registry to examine the effects on COVID-19-positive players.
The Big Ten says the earliest a student-athlete will be able to return to competition after testing positive for COVID-19 will be 21 days.
Each school will also designate a chief infection officer, who will be responsible to collecting and reporting all data to the Big Ten. With that, team test positivity rate and population positivity rate thresholds will be used to determine recommendations for continuing practice and games.
You can learn more about how those determinations will be made by clicking here.
On August 11, the Big Ten announced it was postponing the fall season for all sports, including football. In an interview today on the Big Ten Network, Commissioner Kevin Warren said the situation has been very fluid and the conference feels comfortable returning to football competition.
“This is really about looking forward,” said Warren. “We understand the journey that we had to go through from starting back in early August, all the meetings that we had internally with our athletic directors and even our different task force. One of the things about leadership, it’s important that you are in a perpetual process of gathering information, analyzing information, setting high standards and also looking at each other to say that we now have met those standards for our student-athletes to participate and that’s why this is a happy day for us at the Big Ten.”
The conference says all Big Ten sports will eventually require testing protocols before they can resume competition. More information on other fall sports is expected to be announced soon.
Warren says the situation has been fluid since the initial postponement in August.
Borchers explains what led the conference to become confident in returning to football.