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.
How former Badgers fared in Week 1 of the NFL season
Quintez Cephus – Lions
While the Lions suffered a heart-breaking loss after a dropped pass cost them what would’ve been the winning touchdown, Cephus had a good debut showing. Cephus caught three passes for 43 yards, and led Detroit with 10 targets. He was tied with Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb for the most snaps by a rookie in Week 1 with 57. He may see his usage decline when the Lions get healthy at receiver, but Cephus’ opening act was a good one.
Melvin Gordon – Broncos
Gordon’s debut in Denver started rough, as he lost a fumble after a second-quarter catch that gave the visiting Titans the ball in the red zone. But he came on strong in the second half to finish with 78 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Gordon and Phillip Lindsay were splitting the reps in the backfield before Lindsay left the game due to a toe injury.
Joe Schobert – Jaguars
Playing his first game in a Jacksonville uniform, Schobert tallied eight total tackles, including five solo and one for loss. Schobert teamed with linebacker Myles Jack (11) and safety Josh Jones (12) to rack up 31 tackles as the Jaguars allowed just three points in the second half in a come-from-behind win.
Jonathan Taylor – Colts
In his NFL debut, Taylor led the Colts with nine carries, gaining 22 yards. He was one of the favorite targets for quarterback Philip Rivers as well, catching six passes for 67 yards. Taylor is line for an even heavier workload going forward after starting running back Marlon Mack suffered an Achilles injury that will force him to miss the rest of the season.
T.J. Watt – Steelers
After finishing last season as the runner-up as defensive player of the year, Watt looked back to form on Monday night. He snared an interception to go with a tackle for loss, two pass deflections and two quarterback hits. Watt’s interception came on a stellar play on which he diagnosed the Giants quick pass play and quickly adjusted from rushing the passer to picking off the pass.
Rick Wagner – Packers
Wagner wasn’t in the starting lineup for the Packers in their victory over the division-rival Vikings, but he came in after Lane Taylor suffered an injury. He was solid against a stout Minnesota pass rush, earning a 79.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, the fifth-best grade for a Packer on Sunday.
Russell Wilson – Seahawks
Wilson started his season with a bang in Atlanta, throwing for 322 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-25 win. He went 31 of 35 passing, had a quarterback rating of 143.1 and led the Seahawks in rushing with 29 yards on three carries. Seven receivers caught multiple passes from Wilson, including two scoring strikes to running back Chris Carson.