Big Ten Conference announces football season will start in October with strict medical protocols


The Big Ten Conference intends to start playing football October 23-24, flipping script on the decision to play fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a statement on the Big Ten website, the decision to play comes with a promise to enact strict medical protocols. 

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors adopted the protocols, which include daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening, and an “enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.” The vote to continue was unanimous, and was based on information presented by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, a working group established by the Council and Commissioner to “ensure a collaborative and transparent process.” The Big Ten will require student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game. 

“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, Head Team Physician, The Ohio State University and 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.” Each institution will designate a Chief Infection Officer (CInO) who will oversee the collection and reporting of data for the Big Ten Conference. Team test positivity rate and population positivity rate thresholds will be used to determine recommendations for continuing practice and competition. 

Each team will attempt to play eight games in eight weeks, leaving no wiggle room during the coronavirus pandemic before the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19. That date will also feature an extra cross-division game for each school, with seeded teams in each division squaring off, according to ESPN. The Big Ten would complete its season before the Dec. 20 Selection Day for the College Football Playoff. Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said the Big Ten has agreed to have no fans attending football games this season, which will be held on campus throughout the season. The league is working on a plan to allow families of players and staff to attend both home and away games. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said the schedule will be released later this week. He said the two division crossover games for each team still must be determined. 


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