The Big Ten is back: Here’s what we know

(Source: AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT
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(WILX) - “Let’s goooooooo!!!” Tweeted quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes Justin Fields, summing up the feelings of many players and fans.

The Big Ten has announced that a fall football season will go on after all. The Big Ten Council of presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to reinstate the fall season starting the weekend of Oct. 23-24. It will consist of an eight game regular season with a “champion’s week” where the top teams in their divisions will play each other, the second will play each other, the third and so on down. The sites for these games have not yet been determined.

Not quite five weeks after pushing football and other fall sports to spring in the name of player safety during the pandemic, the conference changed course. Dr. James Borchers, Ohio State Football Head Physician, said that the decision was made only after safety protocols could be firmly established.

Part of those protocols is daily testing, scheduled to start no later than Sept. 30. Anyone who is on the field for a game will require daily antigen testing, including athletes, coaches and trainers. The Chief Infection Officer will oversee the collection and reporting of data for the Big Ten Conference, which will be paying for the tests.

The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Dr. Borchers said, “We need to be at least 14 days from a positive diagnosis to keep COVID-19 from spreading to others. Then any athlete who is in recovery from an illness or injury needs a transition period, which we’ve set at seven days.”

This brings up a new factor that teams will have to deal with: Whole teams could be benched if they are not cautious with coronavirus.

Positivity rate will determine if a team can continue to practice or play. Over 7.5% will cause a stoppage. If a team reaches an positive diagnoses rate of 7.5% they will be forced to sit out games and practice for the 21 day period, which is a not insignificant amount of time in a season with only nine games.

Another major change was announced by Sandy Barbour, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics.

“We are not going to permit fans in general,” Barbour said. “We will see about friends and family of athletes and staff on a campus by campus basis, but as a conference we’ve decided no one else will be allowed.”

There is no word yet as to whether other fall sports will move back from their spring schedules. The NCAA has already moved their championships to spring, but does not have a say in when football may hold it’s championship. An announcement is expected later in the week.

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