The Big Ten Conference’s decision on Aug. 11 to postpone football to the spring induced strong criticism towards Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren. Big Ten student-athletes, parents, coaches, administrators and even President Donald Trump voiced their opposition towards the Big Ten’s decision. The decision to postpone the season until 2021 led to the postponement of other conferences such as the Pac 12. However, Warren announced on Sept. 16 that they would reverse the initial decision and play this fall. The season will now kick off the weekend of Oct. 24 with six games slated to play.
All 14 Big Ten institutions consisting of league presidents and chancellors unanimously voted to resume competition this fall but without fans. The vote was based on the information they have received from medical experts.
The Big Ten will adopt significant medical protocols that were presented by a return to competition task force formed by Warren. The medical protocols include daily rapid response antigen testing as well as enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced date-driven approach for making decisions about practice/competition to ensure that all student-athletes, coaches, and trainers are safe.
“From the onset of the pandemic, our highest priority has been the health and the safety of our students. The new medical protocols and standards put into place by the Big Ten Return To Competition Task Force were pivotal in the decision to move forward with sports in the conference,” Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President said.
The Big Ten’s daily rapid testing program began Sept. 30 for all 14 institutions. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice and game. Student-athletes that test positive for COVID-19 must wait at least 21 days to return to competition.
“The only focus and goal that we’ve had over the last 40 days was to safely allow our student-athletes to return to competition,” Warren said.
Each team will play nine games in nine weeks, leaving no room for errors such as postponements due to positive COVID-19 results. Every team will play all six opponents in their division, plus two cross-division games in eight straight weeks before the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19. The other teams in the conference that won’t be competing for a Big Ten championship will each play an extra cross-division, seeding game.
The Big Ten will complete its season before Selection Day for the College Football Playoff on Dec. 20.
However, Big Ten schools all agreed that they will not sell tickets to the general public, but the conference could still allow the families of student-athletes and staff to attend.
The Big Ten will now join the ACC, Big 12, and SEC conferences in playing football this fall. ACC, Big 12, and SEC teams have already begun play throughout the past couple of weeks.
Since the Big Ten’s decision to play football this fall, the Pac 12, Mountain West and MAC conferences announced that they will play this fall after initially postponing the season until 2021.
The Pac 12 conference will play a shortened, 7-game season, starting Nov. 6, the MAC conference will play a six-game season starting Nov. 4 and the Mountain West conference will play an eight-game season starting Oct. 24
Daily testing of student-athletes has given league commissioners the confidence to return and play football this fall.