Big Ten Conference Votes to Move Forward with Football Season Weeks After Canceling Fall Sports

Scott Taetsch/Getty Penn State Football in November 2019

The Big Ten Conference is moving ahead with a college football season — weeks after announcing that it would cancel due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On Wednesday, the league announced that its council voted unanimously to resume the football season starting the weekend of Oct. 23 and 24, also revealing that they’ve “adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.”

“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,” Dr. Jim Borchers, head team physician at The Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee, said in a press release.

“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,” added Borchers.

The decision to kick off a 2020 season comes one month after the Big Ten confirmed that it voted to cancel all fall sports, including football.

“In making its decision, which was based on multiple factors, the Big Ten Conference relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee,” a press release read at the time.

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Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University president, said in a statement at the time that “our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff.”

Under the new protocols and guidelines to begin the 2020 season, the Big Ten institutions will “establish a cardiac registry in an effort to examine the effects on COVID-19 positive student-athletes.”

“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,” said Schapiro in a statement on Wednesday. “We appreciate the conference’s dedication to developing the necessary safety procedures for our students and the communities that embrace them.”

Daily testing on players will begin by Sept. 3o, and the soonest an athlete will be allowed to play is 21 days after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

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“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,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in a press release. “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 league added that plans about other fall college sports affected by the postponement — men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball — and upcoming winter sports will be announced soon.

Big Ten institutions include: University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Northwestern University, the Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison

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