Big Ten Conference announces plans for football to return weekend of Oct. 24

The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday that will move forward with a season, reversing course on its decision a month ago to postpone the season due to COVID-19.

Play will resume the weekend of Oct. 24. Student-athletes, coaches, trainers, and others associated who are on the field for practices and/or games will undergo daily antigen testing before each practice or game. If a student-athlete tests positive for COVID-19, the earliest the player can return to a game is 21 days after the diagnosis. 

The decision to resume playing was unanimous with all 14 universities agreeing to participate. A schedule has not yet been determined. 

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. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game.

According to the Big Ten, there will be strict protocols and testing in place including comprehensive cardiac testing. 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 Big Ten will also develop a cardiac registry to examine the effects on COVID-19 positive student-athletes to attempt to answer many of the unknowns regarding the cardiac manifestations in COVID-19 positive 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.”

The announcement does not apply to other fall sports like volleyball and soccer.


The conference will utilize a color system to determine the eligibility of teams as a whole, based on positivity rate within each team.

  • Green - 0-2%
  • Orange - 2-5%
  • Red - more than 5%

Decisions to play or practice will be based on the following scenarios:

  • Green/Green and Green/Orange: Team continues with normal practice and competition.
  • Orange/Orange and Orange/Red: Team must proceed with caution and enhance COVID-19 prevention (alter practice and meeting schedule, consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition).
  • Red/Red: Team must stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and reassess metrics until improved.

Daily testing wills tart by September 30, 2020.

The Big Ten Conference postponed all 2020-21 fall sports on August 11, including all regular-season contests and Big Ten Championships and Tournaments, due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, other conferences did not follow suit as the SEC, Big 12, and ACC all started playing this past weekend. Now the Big Ten is announcing it will participate in conference-only games.

In a hot-mic moment, University of Nebraska President Ted Carter appeared to leak the news in discussion with Bob Hinson, the director of the National Strategic Research Institute. Before a news conference, Carter said “We’re getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight."

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 23: The Big Ten Conference logo at Memorial Stadium following a college football game between the Michigan Wolverines and Indiana Hoosiers on November 23, 2019, at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN.(Photo by James Black/I

This comes about a month after Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted by an 11-3 margin to postpone the fall sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three schools to vote against the postponement were Nebraska, Iowa, and Ohio State.

University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh made a plea the day before the cancelation was announced

The postponement of fall sports, in particular football, is hitting colleges and universities heard. Just last week, Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle announced after this year, men’s gymnastics, track and field and tennis were being cut, and eight positions within the department were being eliminated to cut costs as they face a potential $75 million loss in revenue without a football season.

Following the Big Ten’s announcement to postpone fall sports, parents of athletes sent letters to the Big Ten office pleading them to change their decision, and even protested outside the league offices. Eight Nebraska football players filed a lawsuit against the league to get further details on how the decision was made, including the vote.

The Big Ten announced in July that would move to a conference-only schedule and it's likely that Michigan and Michigan State, and all other Big Ten schools, will follow this schedule throughout the fall.

Michigan State is facing one of the largest outbreaks in the state as 203 confirmed cases have popped up on campus. On Monday, Ingham County served mandatory two-week quarantine notices to 30 houses, including 23 Greek homes, connected to MSU in East Lansing.