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Big Ten Reinstates Fall Football Season, Will Resume Play Mid-October

Update, 10:30 a.m.: In a press conference, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said the Big Ten will play a nine-game football schedule starting the weekend of October 24.

Each team would play eight games plus an additional matchup where the top teams from the East and West play their respective counterparts. At this time, it’s unclear exactly what such a scenario would look like.

Alvarez added the Big Ten will likely release its full football schedule later this week.

Original Story: The Big Ten unanimously voted to resume its football season starting the weekend of October 24, the conference announced Wednesday morning.

The Big Ten will require its student-athletes, coaches, and “other individuals that are on the field” to undergo daily coronavirus testing. Tests must be completed and recorded before each practice and game. The Big Ten said testing will begin by September 30.

All coronavirus-positive student-athletes must undergo comprehensive cardiac testing and receive clearance from a cardiologist before resuming any team activities.

According to the conference, the earliest a student-athlete can return to play is 21 days following a positive diagnosis.

The Big Ten plans to use testing data to make decisions about practices and competition using team positivity rates and population positivity rates on a seven-day rolling average.

  • Team positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered):
    • Green 0-2%
    • Orange 2-5%
    • Red >5%
  • Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):
    • Green 0-3.5%
    • Orange 3.5-7.5%
    • Red >7.5%

According to the conferences, decisions will be made corresponding to the following team and population positivity scenarios:

  • Green/Green and Green/Orange: Team continues with normal practice and competition.
  • Orange/Orange and Orange/Red: Team must proceed with caution and enhance COVID-19 prevention (alter practice and meeting schedule, consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition).
  • Red/Red: Team must stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and reassess metrics until improved.

The Big Ten was briefed by the conference’s medical subcommittee over the weekend. There, presidents and chancellors were advised on coronavirus testing, scheduling, and more.

“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,” Ohio State doctor and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee said.

Part of the Big Ten’s fall football plan hinged upon includes daily, rapid testing, an advancement that wasn’t readily available to universities just a few months ago. Fan criticism and political pressure, especially from prominent figures like President Trump, also likely contributed to the league’s policy reversal.

The conference needed a 60% threshold, whether that be in favor of reinstating the season or continuing postponement, to rule on a decision. This time around, its ruling was unanimous.

By planning for a mid-October start, the Big Ten should still be eligible to compete in the College Football Playoff and host a conference championship game. Currently, potential championship dates aren’t set in stone, but the Playoff’s selection day is set for December 20.

At this time, it’s also unclear how, if at all, the Big Ten’s policy reversal will affect other fall sports, such as soccer and women’s volleyball. The conference said updates regarding fall and winter sports will be announced “shortly.”

The Big Ten drew national attention by being the first Power Five conference to bite the bullet earlier and postpone its season in August. Although the Pac-12 followed suit hours later, other conferences, including the SEC, ACC, and Big 12, never wavered and remained focused on playing this fall.

The conference drew criticism from coaches, players, and parents for postponing fall sports. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren later released a statement detailing the decision-making and, at that time, said fall sports’ postponement wouldn’t be revisited.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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