Big Ten reverses course, announces plan to resume fall football season in October

Officials with the Big Ten Conference on Wednesday announced plans to resume the fall football season beginning the weekend of Oct. 23, reversing course one month after announcing the cancellation of the college football season.

In a statement published Wednesday, officials said Big Ten student-athletes will be required to undergo daily antigen testing before each of their practices or games. Anyone found to have tested positive for COVID-19 will have to undergo “comprehensive cardiac testing" and will have to get clearance from a cardiologist before returning to play.

Officials said they plan to launch a cardiac registry aimed at examining the effects of the coronavirus on student-athletes who test positive for the viral infection.

“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,” said Dr. Jim Borchers, head team physician for Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee.

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors said Wednesday that they’ve adopted “significant medical protocols" including an “enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.”

“From the onset of the pandemic, our highest priority has been the health and the safety of our students," said Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council and president of Northwestern University. "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.”

Officials said each college will designate a “chief infection officer” to oversee medical data collection and reporting. Among other things, officials will consider each team’s COVID-19 test positivity rate when determining whether to continue with practices and play.

“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes," Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said Wednesday. "Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love.”

Daily testing is set to begin Sept. 30, officials said.

Last month, officials announced plans to postpone the 2020 college football season until the spring of 2021 due to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 6.6 million infections and reported more than 195,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Wednesday, more than 29.6 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 936,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to Johns Hopkins.