No certainty that Big Ten football will start as Rutgers grapples with outbreak
The Big Ten released its 10-game conference-only football schedule beginning as early as Labor Day weekend but cautioned there is no certainty games will be played.
The Big Ten had announced a month ago it would shorten the season and eliminate nonconference games because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the revised schedule, teams will play conference opponents they originally were set to meet and will have one additional cross-division game.
The regular season starts the weekend of Sept. 5 and runs through Nov. 21. Nov. 28 is a uniform open date. The 10 games would be played over at least 12 weeks, with each team having two open dates, for a total of three. If necessary, makeup games can be played during bye weeks.
If the coronavirus situation dictates, the season could start Sept. 12, 19 or 26.
The Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis remains scheduled for Dec. 5 but could moved as late as Dec. 19.
The conference will allow teams to begin preseason practices Friday, or earlier if a team's season begins before Sept. 5.
Rutgers, Michigan State and Northwestern have shut down voluntary workouts because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
“In making this announcement, the Conference acknowledges that there is much work to be done on our campuses, in our communities and across the country to gain control of a virus that continues to spread at an alarming rate,” the conference said in a statement.
“While the Conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur. While our strategy is to continue planning for all fall sports, if the virus continues to spread among our students despite our many preventative measures, including testing and quarantine protocols, we are also prepared to delay or cancel competition pursuant to local and state public health orders or the recommendations of our medical experts.”
In addition to plans for the 2020 football season, the Big Ten competition start dates for men’s and women’s cross-country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball have been postponed through at least Sept. 5. Conference-only schedules for these sports will be released at a later date.
The conference also released its medical policies and protocols for all sports on testing requirements, and quarantine and isolation. Testing will be managed by a third-party laboratory to ensure consistency across the conference.
Testing frequency will be based on the level of contact risk within each sport and is required for athletes, coaches and staff depending upon exposure to the athletes.
Sports that have a high risk of contact will have a minimum of two tests per week during the competitive season. All other sports will have a minimum of one test per week.
“Our institutions are committed to taking the necessary measures to facilitate a safe return to campus for our students this fall,” said Northwestern president Morton Schapiro, chairman of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have prioritized the health and safety of our students. Their welfare is paramount and remains at the forefront of all of our decisions."
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