Powerhouse college football programs such as the University of Michigan and Ohio State University will resume this season after their governing body, the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, reversed course Wednesday.
The Big Ten Conference said fall football will begin October 23 under a new set of health safety screenings for athletes, coaches and trainers. However, tickets will not be sold, and fans will not be allowed to attend games.
Under the Big Ten’s plan, anyone participating in games or practice must be tested on-site for COVID-19, and the test results must be completed before stepping onto the field. Any student-athlete that tests positive cannot return to Big Ten athletics for at least 21 days.
Dr. Jim Borchers of Ohio State, who helped create the health protocols called them “groundbreaking” and said they designed to protect students. Testing will begin September 30. He also said testing data will be shared among all 14 Big Ten schools “as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities.”
The Big Ten in August voted to, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball, citing potential medical risks. Big Ten Council of Presidents Chairman Morton Schapiro said the medical protocols played a major role in returning to competition this fall. The move comes after many Big Ten coaches spent previous weeks publicly advocating for games to be played.
The Pacific 12 Conference also voted to postpone fall sports, but its leaders haven’t announced any plans to reverse that decision. Pac-12 officials plan to meet this Friday.
Big Ten football is set to resume as numerous college athletes across the nation have come down with the coronavirus. At least 75 players for Texas Tech University have tested positive, while Florida Atlantic University canceled its practice this week after several student-athletes tested positive. Most Louisiana State University football players and recovered, coach Ed Orgeron said this week.
The Big Ten is one of the five largest college athletics conferences, generating $1.8 billion in revenue in 2018. The conference was in danger of losing millions of dollars in income if it canceled games or only played their inter-conference rivals, sports business experts.
President Donald Trump, who had opposed canceling the college football season, tweeted Thursday that the Big Ten’s decision is “great news.”
The Big Ten’s championship game is scheduled for Dec. 19, making the teams in the conference eligible or the College Football Playoff as the final CFP Rankings announcement of the season is set for Dec. 20, according to CBSSports.com.