Big Ten football is back.
Just weeks after announcing the postponement of all fall semester sports, the Big Ten Conference and its Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously Tuesday to resume the football season beginning on Oct. 23.
“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 in a statement Wednesday morning.
“Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love. 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.”
The emergence of daily rapid-response COVID-19 testing — not available when university presidents and chancellors decided to pull the plug on the season — helped trigger a re-vote.
The Pac-12 recently announced a partnership with a diagnostic lab that will give the conference’s schools the capacity to test athletes daily. The Big Ten believes it can do the same and that it is a game-changer.
Each team will have an eight-game schedule, although the details of that schedule have not been released.
The conference has adopted stringent medical protocols that include daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening for students who may test positive and rigorous data monitoring that will determine how schools can proceed with practices and games.
Testing will begin on Sept. 30 and student-athletes who do test positive at any point in the season will have to wait at least 21 days from their diagnosis to return to competition.
The move comes amid sharp pressure from coaches, a lawsuit from players and pressure from parents and even President Donald Trump pushing for a Big Ten football season. The conference is home to a number of battleground states in the November election.
Big 10 said it will make an announcement “shortly” regarding other fall and winter sports that begin in the fall including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and wrestling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.