It’s official. Big Ten college football will return in October.
The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors announced Wednesday after a unanimous vote that the conference’s football season will resume on the weekend of Oct. 23-24. The announcement follows reports that a proposal had been approved for the league to resume play and a hot mic moment from the University of Nebraska’s president suggesting an announcement was imminent.
Each school is to play eight games in a nine-week window, with the league title game tentatively set for Dec. 19, the Journal Sentinel reported. The decision on whether fans will be able to attend the games will likely be left up to individual schools.
In August, the Big Ten voted to postpone all college sports, including football, because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The Pac-12 presidents and chancellors soon followed suit, also voting to postpone its own fall sports season.
The Big Ten’s statement announcing the resumed play indicates student-athletes, coaches, trainers, and anyone else on the field for practice and games will undergo daily antigen testing for COVID-19. The decision to play was reportedly made after hours of deliberation Sunday afternoon in cooperation with the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, a team of medical experts that established rules and procedures to maintain the health and safety of the teams.
“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, the head team physician at Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee, said.
“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes. Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “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.”
Daily testing for football will begin by Sept. 30. Other Big Ten college sports will also require testing protocols before they may return to play. The Big Ten will soon announce updates on men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, wrestling, and other winter sports.
The Pac-12 is also in discussion to return to play this year. ESPN reported that the “most aggressive” return plan is looking at mid-to-late November to see play return. The Pac-12 has partnered with Quidel Corporation, an FDA-approved rapid tests manufacturer, to prepare to test student-athletes daily for the coronavirus. However, schools in California and Oregon are dependent on state public officials to be cleared to resume play.