The Big Ten Conference will resume the fall football season in October, a revere of course after postponing the season in August due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The season will resume Oct. 23 and 24 after the conference’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors unanimously voted to resume to resume the football season, the conference announced in a media release Wednesday.
Each team will play nine games, with the first eight games based on a schedule the conference will release later this week. The ninth game will be played based on seeding in the East and West divisions. The winners of each division will play each other for the Big Ten Championship. The second placed teams, on down to the seventh placed teams in each division will then play each other for their ninth game.
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The conference did not outline if fans will be allowed to attend or how many. However reports from several media outlets indicate family members will be only be allowed to attend games at first.
Daily antigen testing will be required for all student-athletes, coaches, trainers, and other individuals on the field and test results must be completed and reported prior to each practice or game, the conference announced. Daily testing will begin on Sept. 30.
If a player tests positive they will be removed from practices and competitions for at least 21 days before being allowed to return.
Part of the Big Ten’s announcement surrounds the conference’s concern around long-term heart issues from those who tested positive. All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will undergo comprehensive cardiac testing and must receive clearance from a cardiologist before returning to practices or games.
A cardiac registry will be created by the member institutions to examine the cardiac effects of positive COVID-19 athletes, a conference spokesperson said.
“The registry and associated data will attempt to answer many of the unknowns regarding the cardiac manifestations in COVID-19 positive elite athletes,” the spokesperson said.
Each team will designate a Chief Infection Officer who will oversee data collection and reporting to the conference. Based on the findings in testing, decisions will be made on continuing or suspending practices and competition.
The conference established a color-coded, “stop light” system that is based on a team-by-team basis for positivity rates:
- Green: 0-2 percent positivity rate. The team will continue to normal practices and competitions.
- Orange: 2-5 percent. Team will proceed with caution with enhanced COVID-19 prevention. Practice and meeting schedules will be altered, and the team and conference will start evaluating the viability of continuing the season for the team.
- Red: Over 5 percent. Team must stop regular practices and competitions for a minimum of seven days until metrics improve.
“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, The Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee said in the media 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.”
Updates about other fall sports and the upcoming winter sports in the conference will be announced later. However the conference said testing protocols will be required before competition can resume in these sports.
We’ll continue to update this story as new details become available.