In a remarkable turn of events, the Big Ten has reversed its previous decision to postpone the fall football season until the spring. In a statement released by the Big Ten office, the conference announced the Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) had reviewed information presented to the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force and has made the decision to move forward with a fall football schedule beginning October 23rd-24th.
In the release, the conference cited new testing protocols which provides a level of comfort not previously held.
The Big Ten will require student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.
Additionally, to ease concerns over myocarditis, an enlargement of the heart known to be associated with viral infections, including COVID-19, the conference is instituting enhanced cardiac testing for student-athletes who test positive.
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.
The results of the above outlined testing will drive decisions about team practice and game participation.
Team positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered):
Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):
Decisions to alter or halt practice and competition will be based on the following 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.
The daily testing will begin by September 30, 2020.
For weeks, the conference has been the subject of criticism after opting to delay the fall season just a week after releasing a revised schedule, rather than using the built in two week buffer from that schedule to buy time with a September 26th start date like the SEC.
Further, the decision was made behind closed doors with little input from the conference’s coaches or players, causing backlash from both groups, as well as parents of current players. The final vote to delay was 11-3 with Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State voting to move ahead with the previously released schedule.
In retrospect, the conference could have used the two weeks built in to the previously released schedule to push back the start date while they conducted the research and meetings they’ve been doing since the August announcement. Much consternation would have been avoided had the delay been to the end of September and eventually the end of October, rather than pushing all the way to the spring initially. Hindsight is always 20/20.
As a result of the change in scheduling, Big Ten teams will immediately be able to ramp practices back up. Since the decision to push to a spring schedule, teams have been limited to 12 hours a week of non-contact practice. With the new October 23rd start date, teams will begin practicing in full for up to 20 hours per week.
In terms of the schedule itself, teams are expected to be playing eight games over the course of eight or nine weeks. That will leave December 19th or 26th for a Big Ten Championship Game with the conference remaining in the running for bowls and the all important College Football Playoff. Full schedule details have yet to be released.
While it feels strange waiting until October to get Iowa football, this in fact marks the 37th time in program history the season has started in October. However, the last time was in 1944 when a wartime Hawkeye Football program opened the season with a blowout loss to Ohio State, followed by a 1-7 season. The only win that season came against…. Nebraska. The latest Iowa has ever started a full season was October 27th, 1906, when the Hawkeyes defeated Missouri in the opener.
The first game in program history was in fact played on November 16th, 1889, when Iowa fell to Grinnell (then Iowa College) 24-0 in the first intercollegiate football game west of the Mississippi River.
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