The Big Ten Conference’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors has voted to begin the 2020 college football season on October 23.
The conference, mainly covering the Midwest region, last month opted to suspend all fall sports, with the West coast-based Pac-12 Conference soon following suit.
However, the remaining three “Power Five” conferences, plus four other Football Bowl Subdivision conferences opted to play slightly shortened seasons instead, with most beginning the season last Saturday (September 12).
The Big Ten said that improvements in testing and information now mean it will be possible for it to also play this Fall.
“The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition,” the conference said.
Players will undergo daily testing and team test positivity rate and population positivity rate thresholds will be used to determine plans going forward, with a chief information officer for each university to be appointed to oversee this.
“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, head team physician at Ohio State University and co-chair of the return to competition task force medical subcommittee, said.
“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.”
If a team’s positivity rate is below 2% and the university’s below 3.5%, teams play play and practice as normal.
If the rate is between 2% and % for a team or 3.5% and 7.5% for a university, teams may be required to alter their schedules and “consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition”.
If the portion of positive cases is more than 5% for a team or more than 7.5% for a university population, then a team “must stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and reassess metrics until improved”.
Teams will play eight regular season games over the eight weeks starting on 23 October, plus an extra championship game or “consolation game” after the regular season, with the intention that Big Ten teams would be eligible for bowl games and the College Football Playoff at the end of the season.