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BREAKING: Big Ten changes course, aims for October start to football

(AP/WXOW) - The Big Ten is going to give fall football a shot after all.

Less than five weeks after the conference announced it would push football and other fall sports to spring because of the pandemic, the conference changed course.

The Big Ten plans to begin its season the weekend of Oct. 24 with an eight-game schedule for each team.

The Big Ten says its Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to restart sports.

“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, stated.

The Big Ten Championship game will be played Dec. 19, one day before the final College Football Playoff field is set.

The Big Ten Says that they've adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and a data-driven approach when making decisions about practice or competition. Students, coaches, trainers and any other individuals on the field for all games and practices must undergo daily antigen testing.

“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,” the Big Ten statement read.

Back in August, the conference voted to postpone fall sports.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued a statement Wednesday morning on the move by the Big Ten.

"The health and safety of our student-athletes and coaching staff has always been my biggest concern when thinking about playing a Big Ten Football season this year. These concerns led the Big Ten Council of Chancellors and Presidents (COP/C) to postpone the season in August. Since that time, many people have worked hard to answer the questions and concerns that resulted in postponement. My fellow presidents and chancellors have had extensive conversations with doctors and medical advisors and believe that a testing plan that relies on daily, rapid testing of all student-athletes and coaching staff is now feasible and affordable. Medical advisors to the Big Ten have produced clear protocols for testing, isolation, and return to play. They also have a protocol to check any athletes who become ill for heart-related problems. With these protocols, the health concerns that I had in August have been allayed. The Big Ten has also agreed to pay for the testing, which will be done in a uniform manner in all schools. Above all, I support our coaches and student-athletes and want them to have the opportunity to safely compete, if possible. I believe the plan put forward by the Return to Competition Committee, with its extensive safety protocols and tight controls, allows that to happen.I'm particularly grateful to Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, who led the Return to Competition Committee, which developed a viable schedule. While football will probably begin competition before other sports, these protocols will cover all sports. Updates regarding fall sports other than football, as well as winter sports that begin in the fall, will be announced by the Big Ten soon. There are still many details to be worked out, but I will be happy to see the Badgers return to competition in 2020."

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