Big Ten football is back — or at least it will be soon.
After an Aug. 11 decision from the Big Ten to postpone the football season, the conference has decided to move forward with an eight-game season that will include an additional “champions week,” Wisconsin director of athletics Barry Alvarez said in a press conference on Big Ten Network. The new start date for Big Ten football is set for Oct. 23, according to a Big Ten release.
Alvarez said the “champions week” will include matchups between Big Ten East and Big Ten West teams, with the standings determining the matchups. The matchups will take place Dec. 18-19.
The conference will require individuals that are on the field for practices to participate in daily antigen testing, which will need to be completed before each practice and game, the Big Ten said.
“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,” Jim Borchers, head team physician at Ohio State and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee, said.
If a student-athlete tests positive, they will have to undergo cardiac testing and be cleared by a university cardiologist in order to return to play. The earliest a student-athlete can return following a positive COVID-19 test is 21 days.
The introduction of daily, rapid COVID-19 testing helped influence the conference to return before the spring, and daily testing will begin Sept. 30.
Nine votes were needed to overturn the postponement ruling and university presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to bring the season back.
The Big Ten originally voted 11-3 in favor of postponing the season. Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson was among the three to vote against that decision.
University of Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank said Monday in a conference call with the media that the Big Ten member institutions are united in accepting the results of the vote. Therefore, all 14 teams are expected to play out the reinstated season.
“I will say we’re all going to move together in the Big Ten,” Blank said. “This isn’t going to be a school-by-school thing.”
Since the decision to postpone, student-athletes and their parents have led the charge for a return to play. Numerous parent organizations in the Big Ten — including Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois — have sent letters and held rallies in support of a return-to-play decision.
The reinstatement of the season comes on the heels of two high-profile Buckeyes announcing their intentions to opt out of the season. Redshirt juniors cornerback Shaun Wade and guard Wyatt Davis both decided to opt out and prepare for the NFL draft, where they are both projected to land in the opening round.
Ohio State was set to begin its football season Sept. 3 after the release of the conference’s 10-game schedule Aug. 5.
The ACC and Big 12 have already started their seasons with the SEC set to follow Sept. 26.
The College Football Playoff committee is scheduled to release its final rankings Dec. 20.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.