Big Ten announces plan to begin college football season Oct. 23-24

    Ohio State Buckeyes football helmet before the BIG Ten Football Championship Game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors announced Wednesday morning plans to start its college football season Oct. 23-24 after a unanimous vote, promising “significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.”

    The decision was based on information presented by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, a working group that was established by the COP/C and Commissioner Kevin Warren to ensure a collaborative and transparent process, a post on the Big Ten website announced.

    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, the post said. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game, it said, adding that student-athletes who test positive for COVID-19 through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.

    “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 at The Ohio State University and co-chair of the 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.”

    Each institution will designate a Chief Infection Officer (CInO) who will oversee the collection and reporting of data for the Big Ten Conference and team test positivity rate and population positivity rate thresholds will be used to determine recommendations for continuing practice and competition, the announcement stated.

    All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI, it said. 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 announcement said.

    The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis, it said.

    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.

    The Big Ten Conference will use data provided by each Chief Infection Officer (CInO) to make decisions about the continuation of practice and competition, as determined by team positivity rate and population positivity rate, based on a seven-day rolling average.