Big Ten confirms plans for fall football season, outlines enhanced medical protocols

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten will have a fall football season.

The conference confirmed the news, reported by multiple outlets, in a news release Wednesday morning. There will be no public ticket sales.

Games will start on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24, the league said, adding that the conference had adopted “stringent” medical protocols to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those protocols include “daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.”

Each university will appoint a “chief infection officer” to make decisions about practices and games. Those decisions will be 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):
    • Green 0-2%
    • Orange 2-5%
    • Red >5%
  • Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):
    • Green 0-3.5%
    • Orange 3.5-7.5%
    • Red >7.5%

Here’s how the schools will handle different 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.

Daily testing will begin by Sept. 30. The conference will also conduct cardiac testing for athletes who tested positive. From the league:

All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Following cardiac evaluation, student-athletes must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by the university for the primary purpose of cardiac clearance for COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis.

IU football coach Tom Allen said his team was “beyond excited” to return:

We are beyond excited to get back on the football field. Our players have kept their focus and attacked workouts waiting for this day.

Thank you to President McRobbie, Scott Dolson and our medical staff for their relentless efforts to make it safe for all of us to return. I also want to thank Aaron Wellman and his staff for keeping our team sharp and our coaching staff for all of their tireless work.

We look forward to the 2020 Big Ten football season!

President Trump also tweeted:

Multiple media outlets, including Pat Forde with Sports Illustrated, Clay Travis with FOX Sports Radio, and ESPN reported Wednesday that an announcement was forthcoming.

The conference announced last month that it would postpone all fall sports due to the pandemic.

Tuesday, several sources, including our own CBS4 sports team, said games could begin as early as next month.

ESPN reported yesterday that University of Nebraska system president Ted Carter was caught talking about the decision on a hot mic.

You can hear Carter say they were ready to make announcement last night. Carter later clarified, saying it was taken out of context.

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