Big Ten Football Season to Start Oct. 24 After Postponement Amid COVID-19

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2020

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren addresses the media in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 12, 2020, after it was announced that the remainder of the Big Ten Conference men's basketball tournament will be cancelled. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Big Ten football is returning, the organization confirmed on Wednesday morning following its unanimous vote.

"The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition. The COP/C voted unanimously to resume the football season starting the weekend of October 23-24, 2020. The decision was based on information presented by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, a working group that was established by the COP/C and Commissioner Kevin Warren to ensure a collaborative and transparent process."

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports reported the Big Ten is aiming for its teams to play eight games in eight weeks and that the Big Ten Championship Game is scheduled for Dec. 19. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports noted the timetable will allow the Big Ten to participate in the College Football Playoff. 

Wetzel also reported the current plan is for Big Ten games to be played on campus without fans other than the families of players in attendance, although that could change. The Big Ten provided details about testing and safety precautions:

"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. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.

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"All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Following cardiac evaluation, student-athletes must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by the university for the primary purpose of cardiac clearance for COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis.
 
"In addition to the medical protocols approved, the 14 Big Ten institutions will establish a cardiac registry in an effort to examine the effects on COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The registry and associated data will attempt to answer many of the unknowns regarding the cardiac manifestations in COVID-19 positive elite athletes."

When the Big Ten initially announced the postponement of all fall sports, it was expected the conference would hold football in the spring, if at all this season. The plan received significant pushback by some members of the conference, most notably Nebraska, which had eight players sue the Big Ten for potential loss of future wages.

Big Ten players and their parents were overwhelmingly in favor of playing this season. A coalition of players led by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields released a petition calling on the Big Ten to play the season. The petition has generated more than 300,000 signatures

"We, the football players of the Big Ten, together with the fans and supporters of college football, request that the Big Ten Conference immediately reinstate the 2020 football season. Allow Big Ten players/teams to make their own choice as to whether they wish to play or opt out this fall season. Allow Big Ten players/teams who choose to opt out of playing a fall season to do so without penality or repercussion.

"We want to play. We believe that safety protocols have been established and can be maintained to mitigate concerns of exposure to COVID-19. We believe that we should have the right to make decisions about what is best for our health and our future. Don’t let our hard work and sacrifice be in vain. #LetUsPlay!"

Fields and Ohio State reacted to Wednesday's announcement on Twitter:

The Big Ten's momentum to play during the fall began increasing last week, as the conference's medical subcommittee showed evidence that rapid-response antigen tests could limit the exposure of players.

"It's light-years different than it was five weeks ago," a conference source told ESPN's Heather Dinich and Adam Rittenberg.

The reported decision leaves the Pac-12 as the only Power Five conference not playing football this season.