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Game On: Big Ten Schools Vote to Restart Football

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In a stunning reversal, the Big Ten member institutions vote to start play on October 24th

Indiana v Purdue

After several days of speculation, on Wednesday the collection of university presidents and chancellors who lead the 14 member institutions of the Big Ten voted unanimously to resume all football operations, with the goal of playing games on the weekend of Oct. 23.

This is one week later than the rumored date of Oct. 17 that seemed to be the cut-off for Big Ten member teams to be eligible for the College Football Playoff. However, an Oct. 23 start date would allow for an eight-game schedule, with no byes, leading up to the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 19 and the announcement of the College Football Playoff participants on Dec. 20.

This decision comes in the wake of a presentation from the Big Ten’s Return To Competition Task Force on Saturday to the Big Ten presidential steering committee. It has been reported that the key issue is the availability of rapid and reliable COVID-19 screening tests, which should allow for the rapid containment of any outbreaks on the teams and staff.

In a press release issued this morning by the Big Ten conference, a comprehensive testing protocol is outlined that includes “daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.” Any player testing positive for COVID-19 will not be able to return to competition for 21 days. The press release also implies that the data collected in this process will be used to help study COVID-19 and potentially stop its spread.

The presidential steering committee is led by Northwestern’s President Morton Schapiro and includes presidents or chancellors from Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Rutgers, Ohio State, Illinois, and Michigan State’s President, Dr. Samuel Stanley, whose research background includes experience in microbiology and immunology.

Today’s announcement marks the latest twist in what has been a tumultuous six weeks for Big Ten football. On Aug. 5, the conference announced a revised schedule that was comprised of 10 conference games only. Just six days later, the conference seemingly moved in near unison to cancel the season entirely.

What followed was a chaotic power struggle, largely conducted in public, between the various factions in Big Ten country who supported the cancellation and those who did not. First, there were rumors of a spring football season, followed by speculation of a possible restart in November. All the while, teams from the Big 12, SEC, and ACC continued with business as usual, culminating with several games kicking off this past weekend, several of which had at least some fans in the stands.

As for now, the next two to three weeks will be critical. If COVID cases or (worse yet) deaths spike in the regions where college football was held this past weekend, the probability of this proposed Big Ten restart actually happening drops to near zero. But, if October arrives with no major outbreaks associated with college football, I believe that it is more likely than not that we will see the Spartan football team suiting up before Halloween. Either way, it is doubtful that this is the final twist in the 2020 college football season.

Regarding the resumption of other fall sports, and the start of winter sports, the conference had this to say:

“Eventually all Big Ten sports will require testing protocols before they can resume competition. Updates regarding fall sports other than football, as well as 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, will be announced shortly.”

Statement from Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman:

Statement from MSU President Samuel L. Stanley: