Big Ten Conference officials announced Wednesday that its football season will begin the weekend of Oct. 24. The Big Ten was notably the first conference to announce the postponement of football due to COVID-19 in August.
Why the Reversal?
Given that the conference was quite gung-ho in its August push for postponement, many felt that a fall season could come only with rapid medical advancements. The conference made it clear in their official statement Wednesday that the proper protocols are, in fact, in place.
Rapid daily antigen testing, cardiac screening, and an enhanced data-driven approach toward decision-making are all in place, according to officials.
Aside from the medical reasoning, outspoken players and coaches undoubtedly played a part in bringing football back.
ESPN’s Paul Finebaum points to Ohio State, in particular, whose star quarterback Justin Fields created a #wewanttoplay petition with over 300,000 signatures.
After a semifinal loss last season, the talented Buckeyes hope to return to the playoff. ESPN’s Heather Dinich points out that the playoff chase may have also played a significant role in the decision.
If a team wins nine straight conference games, they would likely be included in the playoff, she argues.
Will it Run Smoothly?
According to Dinich, the rapid antigen testing, in particular, may have been the x-factor for the reversal vote. However, she made clear that the securing of rapid tests signals just the beginning of a strenuous process that playing during a pandemic will require:
Any team with a positivity rate of five percent or higher has to halt practice and competition for at least seven days. Also, any player who tests positive will have to wait at least three weeks before returning to game action.
No one knows yet whether playing a full college football season under the cloud of COVID-19 is sustainable. The SEC has not begun play yet, and schools across the country are already postponing games due to case numbers. But, one of the Power Five conferences joining the effort should be seen as a major win for college football fans everywhere.