Big Ten is going to give fall football a shot after all.
Less than five weeks after pushing football and other fall sports to spring in the name of player safety during the pandemic, the conference changed course Wednesday and said it plans to begin its season the weekend of Oct. 24. Each team will have an eight-game schedule.
The Big Ten said its Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously Tuesday to restart sports. The emergence of daily rapid-response COVID-19 testing, not available when university presidents and chancellors decided to pull the plug on the season, helped trigger a re-vote.
"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 and Northwestern University President, and Chair of the Return to Competition Task Force Steering Committee. "We appreciate the conference's dedication to developing the necessary safety procedures for our students and the communities that embrace them."
The Pac-12 recently announced a partnership with a diagnostic lab that will give the conference's schools the capacity to test athletes daily. The Big Ten believes it can do the same and that it is a game-changer.
The move came amid sharp pressure from coaches, a lawsuit from players and pressure from parents and even President Donald Trump pushing for a Big Ten football season. The conference is home to a number of battleground states in the November election.
Student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games will be required to undergo daily antigen testing.
Test results must be completed and recorded before each practice or game.
I want to share my support for the Big Ten decision to begin football competition next month.
Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan, released the following statement:
I join Athletic Director Warde Manuel and everyone at Michigan Athletics in offering appreciation for all the athletes and coaches, the fans and the families who have been preparing for the possibility of playing in the Big House this fall.
Earlier I expressed my concern, shared by my fellow Big Ten presidents and chancellors, that we just didn't know enough about the health and safety concerns unique to intercollegiate athletics to move forward with practices and competition.
As has been so true during this pandemic, we continue to learn more every day and we have adjusted our approach based on the new information that was developed. I especially want to thank the health and safety officials from the Big Ten campuses who have carefully assessed the risk and developed a stringent plan -- that will include daily COVID-19 testing -- to mitigate those risks for our student-athletes, coaches and others. While this approach will start with football, our hope is to use this same approach to resume competition in other sports.
To our millions of fans worldwide, I again thank you for your understanding and your patience. Your support of our teams and our student-athletes is inspiring.
Warde Manuel, the University of Michigan Director of Athletics, released the following statement:
I'm happy that President Schlissel and the Big Ten Conference presidents voted to allow members to move forward with a return to football. The health and safety of our student-athletes have always been primary in the discussion and the decisions. I want to thank Commissioner (Kevin) Warren, the medical professionals of the Big Ten, and my fellow athletic directors for all the work that has been done over the past few months to arrive at this point.
Coach Harbaugh and our student-athletes have been GREAT throughout this process. They have remained diligent in following the protocols and preparing to have this opportunity to play this season.
I also want to thank our coaches and staff, our student-athletes, their families and our fans for their collective patience. I look forward to watching our teams compete this fall and beyond.