Ohio State and other football teams around the Big Ten are scheduled to begin preseason camp one week from today, but whether that will actually happen is still up in the air.
According to a letter sent Thursday to Big Ten athletic directors by commissioner Kevin Warren and Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the conference's task force for emerging infectious diseases, a decision on whether preseason camp will begin as currently scheduled will be made “within the next 5 days.“
“We will not, and cannot, proceed with preseason camp until we are certain that we can do so safely and that will depend, in part, on testing,” the letter states. “Once we have everything in place to execute our testing protocols effectively, including the appropriate number of tests secured for all fall sports, we can make a decision as to whether preseason camp will begin as currently scheduled.”
Per Thursday's letter, the Big Ten remains “hopeful to compete this fall in men's and women's cross country, field hockey, football, men's and women's soccer, and women's volleyball, understanding that we must operate in a manner that seeks to address the challenges that COVID-19 presents.” The letter also states, though, that health and safety remains the conference's “primary focus,” and that fall sports could still be canceled if the conference is not confident they can be played safely.
“If we determine as a Conference that it is not prudent to compete in the fall of 2020, we will not do so, much like our decision in March 2020 to cancel the Men's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis,” the letter states. “Our final decision will be rooted in guidance from medical experts and in consultation with institutional leadership, student-athletes, coaches and appropriate federal, state, and local authorities.”
The conference is planning to release its medical policies and protocols for the return of sports next week. Those protocols “will include medical standardized testing requirements that will be consistently evaluated to ensure we are accounting for current medical recommendations.”
“We believe that the implementation of these protocols will help us mitigate risk as we seek to safely resume athletic activity and competition,” the letter states.
While multiple reports on Thursday had indicated the Big Ten could release a conference-only football schedule as soon as Friday, “scheduling for fall sports remains fluid” according to Thursday's letter, but the conference does expect to release schedules for each of its fall sports at some point in August with hopes of still beginning the fall sports season in September.
“Administrators, coaches, and Conference staff have been working daily to create schedules that provide the appropriate levels of flexibility to respond in real-time to necessary changes,” the letter states. “While we remain hopeful for a start in September 2020, flexibility has been created within our scheduling models to accommodate necessary adjustments. Consistent with our collective need to be adaptable to changes in circumstances and evolving medical knowledge, even issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur.”
The letter also reiterated, as previously announced earlier this month, that all participation in fall sports will be optional and that any athletes who elect not to participate in athletics during the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored and remain in good standing with their teams.
“We cannot emphasize enough that participation at any time throughout the 2020 season is voluntary,” the letter states.
You can read the full letter from the Big Ten below.