Big Ten Football to Start Competition in Late October
Conference Adopts Stringent New Medical Protocols
The Big Ten Conference announced today that it will resume its delayed football season the weekend of Oct. 23-24 after its Council of Presidents and Chancellors unanimously voted to adopt significant medical protocols in advance of a nine-game season to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the program.
Student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals who are on the field for all practices and games will be required to undergo daily antigen testing and enhanced cardiac screening. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game, and student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through daily testing would require a subsequent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result. The daily testing will begin by Sept. 30.
“We are excited that Maryland and Big Ten football are back,” said Damon Evans, UMD athletic director. “The health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has always remained a priority, and the new medical protocols developed by medical professionals have put us all in a stronger position to resume competition.”
Maryland football Head Coach Michael Locksley said that he was “thrilled that our football team will have the opportunity to compete on Saturdays this fall.”
“Our student-athletes have stayed focused and prepared and are eager to return to competition,” he said. “I am extremely thankful for the incredible work of the medical staff here at Maryland and throughout the conference to develop the new protocols that allow us to get back to doing what we love.”
Under guidance from the Prince George's County Health Department, Maryland Athletics is preparing to begin the season with no fans in attendance. There will be no football season tickets.
As part of preparing for football to compete, each of the 14 Big Ten institutions will designate a “chief infection officer” to oversee the collection and reporting of data for the Big Ten Conference. Team test positivity rate and population positivity rate thresholds will be used to determine recommendations for continuing practice and competition.
All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing including labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Following cardiac evaluation, student-athletes must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by their 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.
"Everyone associated with the Big Ten should be very proud of the groundbreaking steps that are now being taken to better protect the health and safety of the student-athletes and surrounding communities," said Dr. Jim Borchers, head team physician for Ohio State University and co-chair of the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee.
"The data we are going to collect from testing and the cardiac registry will provide major contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities."
In addition to the medical protocols approved, the 14 Big Ten institutions will establish a cardiac registry in an effort to examine the effects on COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The registry and associated data will attempt to answer many of the unknowns regarding the cardiac manifestations in COVID-19 positive elite athletes.
"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."
Conference officials on Aug. 11 postponed all fall sports. They said today that 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.
Maryland Athletics today reported testing 449 student-athletes on Sept. 8, with a total of 35 testing positive, including 19 already in quarantine. After suspending all sports-related training on Sept. 3, it has resumed for 13 teams. It remains on hold for seven others that had not started workouts, pending further evaluation.
In all testing of athletics to date, 2,640 tests have yielded 98 positive results. In order to protect student-athlete privacy, Maryland Athletics will continue to publicly release aggregate test results at regular intervals.