Presser Bullets: Kevin Warren and Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force Address League’s Decision to Return to Play, Scheduling Format, Testing Protocols in Place

By Zack Carpenter on September 16, 2020 at 11:18 am
Kevin Warren, Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force

Ohio State and the Big Ten are returning to play this fall.

After weeks of rumors, misinformed (and well-informed) “per sources” tweets and patience wearing thing, the Big Ten officially announced this morning that football is returning on October 23-24.

League commissioner Kevin Warren and the five leaders of the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force addressed why the conference chose to return to play, what the Big Ten schedule will look like and testing protocols that each team must undergo:

Kevin Warren, Big Ten commissioner

  • “The only goal we've had," Warren says, was to return to play so the student-athletes would be able to have a safe way to play sports this fall.
  • Warren: "Our chancellors and presidents have been laser focused since day one ... to allow our student-athletes to return in a safe manner."
  • Warren: "This is a happy day for us in the Big Ten. We've created an environment and made standard we're comfortable with."
  • Warren says that ever since the decision to postpone the season, the Return to Competition Task Force has been working in a "collaborative and transparent manner" to return.
  • Warren: "The biggest thing we all have to realize is this is a fluid situation and we wanted to put the health of student-athletes at the forefront of our decision."
  • Warren says the league needed to show flexibility. Once the league was comfortable with a safe environment being created for the players, the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors proceeded forward with the decision.
  • "We've met the standards we're comfortable with for the student-athletes," Warren said. He says the league and teams will need to remain flexible, collaborative and transparent moving forward.
  • Warren: “Even after we get into the season, we're going to have remain fluid. We're going to have to adapt to changes. That's the world that we're living in.”
  • Warren mentions Aug. 7 call with medical experts, who raised "serious medical concerns" about going forward. Uses the word "pause" to say what happened next. Says league is in much better shape now and more prepared to go forward with football.
  • Warren: “We are so much better, so much more prepared today than we were 43 days ago.”
  • On the call with President Donald Trump: "It was productive and interesting. ... It was a productive call, and I'm always interested in who's willing to help, regardless of the level that they can help in. So we had a good conversation and a very respectful conversation.”
  • Warren: "The daily testing will be conducted for all of our fall sports, which we thought was imperative for the health and safety of all of our student-athletes."

Morton O. Schapiro, Northwestern president

  • We all relied on our medical experts. Fortunately, in the Big Ten, there are a lot of experts. Once they convinced us it was safe to play, they were all for it.
  • Schapiro said that the medical advice he relied on five weeks ago when he voted to cancel the season was that there was "no chance" that a healthy and safe season could take place, but more information came out and more was learned about medical testing and medical information.
  • Schapiro: "Medical opinion changed. There have been a lot of advances in understanding the pandemic and myocarditis and the like."
  • The reason the league chose Oct. 23-24 is because that's when it felt it was safest to return with testing protocols.
  • Schapiro called Saturday's meeting with the league's medical team a turning point for him personally: “For me it wasn’t about political pressure, money or lawsuits.”

Sandy Barbour, vice president for intercollegiate athletics

  • Barbour: "What really mattered here is that the medical expertise was brought to the forefront here," Barbour said.
  • Barbour: "This has always been, and will always be, about student-athletes' health and safety in our communities."
  • In regards to fans, other than families, not being allowed at games: "As a conference, we have made the decision of no public sale of tickets."

Dr. James Borchers, Ohio State football head physician

  • Borchers: "These last 40 days have been an incredible example of collaboration and congeniality ... to put forward a pathway to have our student-athletes to have a return to play and do it in a healthy and safe fashion."
  • Borchers: "The strategy is one where we're trying to rapidly identify anyone who may have the virus and remove them from practices."
  • Borchers said the Big Ten is requiring players to sit out 21 days after a COVID-19 positive test so that they have a 7-day transition period back to football after 14 days away from the team.
  • Borchers: "We believe this is a safe protocol that will allow us to complete this season ... If we need to adjust, we'll adjust."

Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin athletic director

  • We came up with four different schedule models that were presented to the COP/C. The schedule that the COP/C selected will be an eight-plus-one schedule: "It's a unique championship week where the teams from the east and west will match up with East 1 vs. West 1, 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, 4 vs. 4, etc."
  • Alvarez says the schedule will be worked on this week and a schedule will be "laid out later this week."
  • Alvarez: "We are asking the student-athletes to be leaders for the rest of the campus and the community, not just for them to be able to play but for our campus and our community to remain safe."
  • Alvarez says he believes teams will be able to start practice "immediately" and that there will be plenty of time to acclimate since the players were still working out and conditioning despite the fall season's shutdown.
  • Alvarez: "We wanted to make the season meaningful. You have a number of players trying to make a decision whether they’re opting in or opting out. We wanted to make it meaningful for all of them."
  • Alvarez says the league does not want a repeat game in the eight-plus-one format: "It's definitely something we'll take a look at because you wouldn't want a rematch."
  • Alvarez says it has "yet to be determined" where the ninth games will take place, whether at the east or west home stadium or a neutral site.

Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation

  • Phillips said having Iowa AD Gary Barta as College Football Playoff selection committee chairman has helped in terms of ensuring their teams will have the opportunity to compete in the CFP. Kevin Warren has been in touch with Bill Hancock, too.
  • Phillips says that playing a regular season "in a meaningful way" and tying it in with the TV and other media partners to play in bowl games and potentially a College Football Playoff "is very exciting" as it is "a real possibility" that Big Ten teams will be eligible for the CFP.
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