Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, AP generic file photo

In this June 4, 2019, file photo, Kevin Warren talks to reporters after being named Big Ten Conference Commissioner during a news conference in Rosemont, Illinois. Content Exchange

The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday morning that football will return the weekend of Oct. 23-24.

The league’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors met Tuesday to discuss the season and unanimously approved a proposal to bring back football after postponing all fall sports on Aug. 11. Decisions about other fall sports returning “will be announced shortly,” per the conference’s news release.

Rapid, daily antigen testing for COVID-19 was a fixture of the proposal submitted by the conference’s return-to-competition committee, which is chaired by UW athletic director Barry Alvarez. Daily testing decreases the strain of contract tracing efforts in the event of a positive test.

“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. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test,” the conference said in a release.

Enhanced cardiac screening is also a key element to football’s return, as more information is learned about COVID-19’s link to a heart condition called myocarditis.

“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,” said Dr. Jim Borchers, Ohio State’s head team doctor and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee. “The data we are going to collect from testing and the cardiac registry will provide major contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities.”

A player who tests positive can return to games after 21 days, at the earliest. Any COVID-19-positive student-athlete will “undergo comprehensive cardiac testing” and be cleared by a cardiologist before returning to activity, per the Big Ten’s news release.

All 14 Big Ten schools will designate a Chief Infection Officer who oversees testing data and reports it to the conference. Team positivity rates and population positivity rates — based on a seven-day rolling average — will determine if teams can practice or play.

The conference will use these thresholds, per its release:

Team positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered):

  • Green 0-2%
  • Orange 2-5%
  • Red >5%

Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):

  • Green 0-3.5%
  • Orange 3.5-7.5%
  • Red >7.5%

Practices and games will be altered under the following scenarios:

  • 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.

UW’s football team is in the middle of a two-week break caused by COVID-19 test results and the campus as a whole is dealing with a spike in positive cases that has halted in-person instruction and put two of its largest dorms in quarantine. Positivity rate on the football team is not publicly reported.

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This story will be updated.

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