The Big Ten Conference announced today that the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) has approved plans for the 2020 football season, including a 10-game Conference-only schedule beginning as early as the weekend of September 5.
In making this announcement, the Conference acknowledges that there is much work to be done on our campuses, in our communities and across the country to gain control of a virus that continues to spread at an alarming rate.
“While the Conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur. While our strategy is to continue planning for all fall sports, if the virus continues to spread among our students despite our many preventative measures, including testing and quarantine protocols, we are also prepared to delay or cancel competition pursuant to local and state public health orders or the recommendations of our medical experts. As Commissioner Kevin Warren has consistently stated, our country is navigating unprecedented times and throughout all decisions, the health and safety of our students, student-athletes, and everyone associated with our Big Ten university communities remains our primary focus as we work with our institutions to provide a healthy and productive learning environment that includes intercollegiate athletic competition.”
In addition to plans for the 2020 football season, the Conference announced that competition start dates for men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball have been postponed through at least September 5.
Conference-only schedules for these sports will be released at a later date as scheduling for these sports remains fluid.
Administrators, coaches, and Conference staff have been working daily to create schedules that provide the appropriate levels of flexibility to respond in real-time to necessary changes.
Big Ten Medical Protocols
Working with the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (Task Force) and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee (Committee), the Big Ten Conference also released its medical policies and protocols for all sports on the specific topics of testing requirements, and quarantine and isolation.
Testing will be managed by a third-party laboratory to ensure consistency across the Conference. Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic, the protocols will be updated regularly as new information becomes available and feedback from student-athletes is continuously evaluated.
The protocols have been developed to guide institutions in the minimum necessary requirements needed to participate in athletics in the 2020-21 academic year. These protocols, which will go into effect at the start of the competitive season and complement local protocols already in place at the institutional level, serve to provide specific requirements, in addition to considerations that have previously been developed by the Task Force, the Autonomy 5 Medical Advisory Group and the NCAA.
Currently required testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as outlined in the testing protocol, is polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. Testing frequency is based on the level of contact risk within each sport and is required for student-athletes, as well as coaches and staff depending upon exposure to the student-athletes.
Sports that have a high risk of contact will have a minimum of two PCR surveillance tests per week during the competitive season. All other sports will have a minimum of one PCR surveillance test per week.
Additional weekly testing requirements and alternative testing methods will be implemented and administered by the Conference or institutions this fall as sufficient data to support use develops.
“Our institutions are committed to taking the necessary measures to facilitate a safe return to campus for our students this fall,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have prioritized the health and safety of our students. Their welfare is paramount and remains at the forefront of all of our decisions. Today’s announcement, though subject to local, state and federal public health guidelines, provides a path forward for Big Ten student-athletes to return to competition based on comprehensive, conference-wide medical policies and protocols established by the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee. We will continue to evaluate the best available information and advice from public health officials as we make decisions and necessary adjustments going forward.”
The Conference previously announced that participation in fall sports is optional and that all Big Ten student-athletes who elect not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the 2020 summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team.
“Developing consistent medical protocols and testing procedures for the health and safety of our student-athletes and our athletic programs is critical,” said Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren. “Our Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and local, state, and national experts have provided guidelines throughout our decision-making process with our student athletes’ health and safety as our first and foremost concern. At the same time, as we have previously communicated, any student-athletes who do not feel safe proceeding with the upcoming season as a result of the COVID-19 virus should know they have our full support and also know they will retain their scholarships. With the knowledge we have today, providing potential options for all of our student-athletes was of the utmost importance to us, all while ensuring there is a process in place to incorporate student-athlete feedback. While a comprehensive plan has been developed, we also know it is essential to continue to be agile as new information and health trends become available and we will adjust accordingly.”
The Big Ten Conference is proud of its 14 world-class research institutions and has leveraged their resources and expertise to address this pandemic over the past four months. The Task Force has also engaged in extensive research and sharing of materials and conversations with federal, state and local governments, professional and international sports organizations, and medical agencies in order to track and better understand the daily updates surrounding this pandemic. In June 2020, Big Ten institutions developed local policies and protocols for the safe return to voluntary workouts. In July 2020, additional activities have been carefully monitored to promote the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. As the beginning of the fall 2020 season approaches, we will continue to work with medical experts and governmental authorities to gather additional information, evaluate emerging data and technologies, and seek to implement the highest standards of testing and other safety measures.
Big Ten Football
- The plan is for Big Ten institutions to play a 10-game Conference-only schedule including the nine current opponents and one additional cross-division game
- The schedule starts as early as the weekend of Sept. 5 with final games slated for Nov. 21 to align with academic calendars
- The 10 games would be played over at least 12 weeks with each team having two open dates
- The schedule is structured to maximize flexibility:
- Games can be collapsed into bye weeks
- Uniform bye week on Nov. 28
- Cross-division games are currently scheduled for all schools in Week 1 (Sept. 5) and Week 12 (Nov. 21)
- Schedule constructed in a way that allows season to start as early as the weekend of Sept. 5, but also provides the ability to move the start of the season back to Sept. 12, 19 or 26 through strategic sequencing that allows games to be moved to a latter part of the schedule
- Big Ten Football Championship Game remains scheduled for Dec. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, though it could be moved as late as Dec. 19
- Teams can begin preseason practices on Friday, Aug. 7, or earlier if permitted under NCAA guidelines related to first dates of scheduled competition