Over a month after the conference postponed all fall sports, Big Ten football is back.
The Big Ten officially announced the league’s plan to play a fall slate in a statement Wednesday morning. The reversal comes over a month after the league moved to postpone fall sports on Aug. 11 due to ongoing concerns relating to COVID-19. The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously on the decision.
According to the statement, the decision was made based on the conference’s ability to adopt “stringent” medical procedures, such as daily testing and enhanced cardiac screening. The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force presented information that led to the conference’s decision.
“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 Head Team Physician Dr. Jim Borchers said, according to the release.
According to the conference’s announcement, the regular season will kick off the weekend of Oct. 23-24. Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said on Big Ten Network that teams will play a total of nine games. There will be eight normal regular season games, plus each team will play an additional game on the conference's championship weekend. The division champs will play for the conference title as usual, but every Big Ten team will play a game against the team in the opposite division with the same division standing as them.
Student-athletes, coaches, trainers and others who will be on the field for practices and games will be required to undergo antigen testing daily. On game days, test results must be completed and recorded prior to the competition. Daily testing will begin in two weeks, on Sept. 30.
If a team’s positivity rate among its tests reaches a number greater than 5%, and the “population positivity rate,” which is the number of positive tests divided by the total population at risk, reaches a number greater than 7.5%, teams must stop practice and competition for a minimum of seven days.
These numbers designate a “red area.” If teams are in the orange (team positivity rate 2-5%, population positivity rate 3.5-7.5%), they can proceed with caution. Anything below those numbers and teams can continue with practice and competition as usual.
The Big Ten’s decision was unofficially leaked earlier in the day by NU President Ted Carter. In a Tuesday morning news conference on NET Nebraska, Carter was caught on a hot mic talking with Bob Hinson, director of the National Strategic Research Institute, at a podium prior to the press conference.
“We’re getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight,” Carter said.
Nebraska and Ohio State, two schools that voted to play fall sports in last month’s vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, have been at the forefront of demanding transparency from the conference.
Parent groups from both schools have written letters to Warren, eight Nebraska football players sued the Big Ten on Aug. 27, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields launched a petition with over 300,000 signatures requesting that the Big Ten reinstate the 2020 football season, among countless other actions from student-athletes and university leaders at both schools.
UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and Athletic Director Bill Moos also released a statement following the announcement.
"The safety protocols established by the conference are the most stringent in the country and will help protect our student-athletes, staff and coaches," they said in the statement.
The Big Ten did not announce a new fate for any other fall or winter sports, but the statement said that another announcement would be coming shortly.