/Big Ten reverses field, set to play football this autumn after all

Big Ten reverses field, set to play football this autumn after all

The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday it will play football this fall, a stunning reversal from the league’s move last month to push back the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The alliance of 14 universities, representing some of the nation’s most prestigious schools and storied football programs, will be back on the football field the weekend of Oct. 23-24, the league announced.

“The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) adopted significant medical protocols and has voted unanimously to resume the football season starting the weekend of October 23-24, 2020,” according to conference statement.

New protocols will include daily testing for players and team staff, and each university is to appoint an infection officer to oversee testing.

The conference said Aug. 11 that it was too risky to play with America still struggling to contain the virus that’s killed nearly 200,000 Americans. The plan was to stage an unprecedented spring football season, if the virus was under control.

But that move drew immediate pushback from football-loving critics, particularly at Ohio State University and the University of Nebraska, who insisted the sport could be played safely.

And in recent days, proponents of fall football argued that improvements in rapid coronavirus testing could answer concerns cited in last month’s Big Ten announcement to postpone pigskin action and all other fall sports.

The pressure to strap on helmets this fall has grown in recent weeks, as three other prominent college football conferences went forward with shortened seasons. Schools of the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conferences have already played games in front of limited crowds, and the powerful Southeastern Conference kicks off on Sept. 26.

The Big Ten’s about-face leaves the Pacific-12 Conference as the lone Power 5 league not yet committed to fall football. Pacific-12 officials have hinted recently they could return to play sooner than expected due to advancements in rapid testing.

The sport’s top level, the Football Bowl Subdivision, holds a postseason tournament that is not under control of the NCAA. Instead, the four-team knockout competition is administered by the College Football Playoff which expects to pick those semifinalists on Dec. 20.

The championship game is set for Jan. 11, 2021, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday if Big Ten teams could be considered, given this delayed start.

This is a developing story, please refresh here for updates.

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