COLUMBUS, OH — Big Ten football will return in October.
The season will. All of the conference's 14 teams are expected to participate in an eight-game season. A conference championship game will be played Dec. 19.
The Big Ten will require players, coaches and trainers to undergo daily antigen testing. Results must be completed and recorded prior to every practice or game. Athletes who test positive for the coronavirus will need to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm their positive results.
Positivity rates for each team will be used to determine whether or not games and practices should continue. Daily testing must start by Sept. 30 for all teams.
“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,” said Dr. Jim Borchers, head team physician, The Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee.
The Big Ten will also establish a cardiac registry to study the effects of COVID-19 on athlete's hearts. Any COVID-19-positive athlete will receive comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. A cardiologist will then have to sign off on the athlete's return to play.
“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,” said Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors
The decision to start the season is a major reversal for the conference. In mid-August, the Big Ten announced it would postpone its 2020-2021 football season, drawing a mix of relief and ire from critics.
Conference officials said they weighed the risks of COVID-19 while debating moving forward with fall sports. Initially, the dangers posed to athletes, coaches, staff and fans were too much to move forward with the season.
However, despite the PAC following the Big Ten's lead and delaying football, other Power 5 conferences decided to push forward with the season. Notre Dame temporarily joined the ACC and games began this month.
Ohio State was ranked No. 2 in the nation prior to the season.
This report is being updated.