Sept. 16 (UPI) — The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday it will start 2020 games Oct. 23, changing its previous plans to postpone the fall football season to spring 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our focus with the task force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said.
“Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,”
“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 conference on Aug. 11 postponed all fall sports seasons due to safety concerns linked to the pandemic. Big Ten officials said updates for other fall sports and winter sports will be announced later.
The Big Ten’s council of presidents and chancellors unanimously voted this week to resume the fall football campaigns after the conference adopted medical protocols, which include daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an “enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions” about practices and games.
“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, the head team physician at Ohio State and the co-chair of the return to competition task force medical subcommittee.
The conference will require athletes, coaches, trainers and others on the field for practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing. The results for those tests must be completed and recorded before each practice or game.
Athletes who test positive for COVID-19 through point-of-contact testing will be required to take a polymerase chain reaction test to confirm the result of the first test.
Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers and Wisconsin — the conference’s member schools — also must designate a chief infection officer to oversee collection and reporting of data.
Players cannot return to game competition for at least 21 days if they test positive for COVID-19. Daily testing for Big Ten athletes will begin Sept. 30.
The conference also established guidelines for continuation of play based on positive tests. Teams must stop regular practice and competition for at least seven days if the team’s positivity rate is more than 5%.
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 were the only members of the Power 5 conferences that initially elected not to start their football seasons this fall due to the pandemic.
The ACC and Big 12 schools began play last week. SEC schools originally were scheduled to begin play in the first week of September, but pushed their season start date back to Sept. 26.
The Pac-12 has not announced plans for fall football.