The Big Ten has officially made the return of fall football official with the conference announcing the news and its enhanced coronavirus testing protocols on Wednesday morning. After weeks of rumors and reports, the Big Ten revealed that the decision was voted on unanimously in favor of getting back on the field.
The conference is going to require athletes, coaches and anyone else in contact with the team and on the field for practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing. The results must be completed and in the books prior to stepping on the field for each practice or game. Daily testing will begin by Sept. 30.
“Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test,” the release from the conference states.
If there is a positive COVID-19 test among a student-athlete, they will be required to undergo a comprehensive cardiac test and receive clearance from a cardiologist to get back on the field. The press release says that the earliest a student-athlete can return would be 21 days following a positive test. All 14 schools will also be required to establish a cardiac registry that will help examine and study the effects of COVID-19 on the positive players.
Every Big Ten school will have to designate a Chief Infection Officer who will be in charge of collecting and reporting the testing data to the league office. Positivity rates and population positive rates will be used as the guide for whether it is safe to keep practicing or playing games.
The Big Ten Conference will use data provided by each Chief Infection Officer (CInO) to make decisions about the continuation of practice and competition, as determined by team positivity rate and population positivity rate, based on a seven-day rolling average:
Team positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered):
Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):
Decisions to alter or halt practice and competition will be based on the following scenarios:
Green/Green and Green/Orange: Team continues with normal practice and competition.
Orange/Orange and Orange/Red: Team must proceed with caution and enhance COVID-19 prevention (alter practice and meeting schedule, consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition).
Red/Red: Team must stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and reassess metrics until improved.
“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 and Chair of the Return to Competition Task Force Steering Committee said. “We appreciate the conference’s dedication to developing the necessary safety procedures for our students and the communities that embrace them.”
“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,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “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.”
All Big Ten sports will eventually have to have protocols in place and a determination on the rest of the them, including the winter sports, are set to be revealed at a later date.
Let it be stated that the Big Ten could have done any of this by simply hitting the pause button after announcing a schedule in early August. Instead, a postponement was made on Aug. 11 and several weeks of terrible messaging and PR followed. With over five weeks until the proposed start to the season, there very well could be further plot twists. But for now, Big Ten football is back.