In a reversal of its decision to cancel its 2020 U.S. college football schedule due the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Ten Athletic Conference on Wednesday announced plans to resume play in October.
In a statement posted on its website, the conference said its Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to resume the football season starting the weekend of Oct. 23, 2020. Last month, the collection of colleges and universities voted 11-3 to postpone the season, with The Ohio State University, University of Iowa and University of Nebraska voting against.
The conference said the emergence of daily rapid-response COVID-19 testing, not available when university presidents and chancellors decided to pull the plug on the season, helped trigger a re-vote. The Big Ten said it will begin daily antigen testing of its athletes, coaches and staff on Sept. 30.
Under the plan, team positivity rates and school population positivity rate thresholds will be used to determine whether teams must halt practice or play. The earliest an athlete will be able to return to game competition would be 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis.
Each team will play eight games in eight weeks and the conference championship game will be held Dec. 19 — if all goes well. That should give the Big Ten an opportunity to compete for the national championship.
After the Big Ten's initial decision not to play this season, the league felt pressure from parents, coaches, athletes and politicians, including U.S. President Donald Trump, to resume its schedule.
The athletic conference is made up of 14 institutions, most of which are in the Midwestern United States, a key "battleground" region in November's elections.
Trump had been critical of the original decision not to play and, on his Twitter account Wednesday, expressed his pleasure at news of the reversal, even taking some credit for the decision, saying it was his "great honor to have helped."
Great News: BIG TEN FOOTBALL IS BACK. All teams to participate. Thank you to the players, coaches, parents, and all school representatives. Have a FANTASTIC SEASON! It is my great honor to have helped!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2020