Big Ten football teams will kick off the 2020 season on the weekend of Oct. 23.
The conference announced this morning that the season that has been postponed since Aug. 11 after the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors approved significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when decisions are made about whether to play or practice.
The decision to move forward, according to the Big Ten, was unanimous.
Daily testing of student-athletes will begin in a little over a week.
“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. “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 all of the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished.’’
Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta, in a statement, said the frequency, availability and reliability of daily testing was “a game changer’’ in allowing a season to occur.
“The seriousness of the pandemic is still very real, but I’m pleased for our student-athletes, coaches and fans that we’ve been able to create a path forward,’’ Barta said.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz called the decision “welcome news’’ for his team.
“Our focus is now to train and prepare to compete on October 23-24, recognizing that the health and safety of our players is our number one priority,’’ Ferentz said. “I am proud of the attitude and work ethic our players have displayed over the past several weeks of uncertainty.’’
Big Ten teams will play nine games over a nine-week period, eight-regular season games followed by a unique “champions week’’ which will not only pair the first-place finishers from each division but will also match-up second-place, third-place finishers all the way through seventh place.
Wisconsin director of athletics Barry Alvarez, who chaired a committee which assembled four football scheduling models, said the idea for the ninth week will be to avoid regular-season rematches as much possible.
He said the ninth game was added to create additional meaning to the season.
The details of the schedule remain a work in progress and will be finalized in upcoming days.
Fans hoping to attend games will not get that chance. Administrators have decided that conference-wide, no tickets will be sold for games this season. Parents of players will be allowed to attend.
Other Big Ten fall sports could begin competition this fall as well.
Discussions about that are scheduled to begin on Thursday, Warren said.
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