After deciding last month to push the 2020 football season to next spring, the Big Ten has reversed course and will start play on Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24.
As COVID-19 surged across the country over the summer, to particularly notable effect on college campuses, the Pac-12 and Big Ten opted out of the season, as did a host of other conferences. The SEC, ACC and Big-12, three of the “power five” conferences in the sport, decided to go ahead and play. The four-team playoff, held annually in late-December and early-January, is still expected to proceed.
Billions of dollars are at stake for major TV networks and universities and the idea of trying to play a season in the spring raised questions about recruiting and the NFL Draft. The Big Ten, a longtime source of talent from Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and other schools, could have been at a disadvantage and was said to be weighing that against health and safety.
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Schools opting out of football have already seen consequences, with many having to pare back other athletic programs funded by football revenue. Yet some games from Division 1 schools scheduled for last Saturday had to be postponed because of outbreaks of infection on various teams.
The Big Ten’s revised plan was approved in a vote by the conference’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors. It came after the adoption of what the group called “significant medical protocols” designed to limit coronavirus risk. Those measures include daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an “enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition,” a press release said.
“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,” said Dr. Jim Borchers, Head Team Physician, The Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee. “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.”
President Donald Trump didn’t hesitate to take credit for his role in getting games back on the field.
“Great News,” he tweeted. “BIG TEN FOOTBALL IS BACK. All teams to participate. Thank you to the players, coaches, parents, and all school representatives. Have a FANTASTIC SEASON! It is my great honor to have helped!!!”