Ohio State's opportunity to compete for a national championship has been restored.
The Big Ten announced Wednesday that it has “voted unanimously” to resume the football season starting the weekend of Oct. 23-24, putting the conference back in line with the SEC, ACC and Big 12 also playing this fall and giving its teams the opportunity to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Big Ten has not yet released an official schedule, but it is set to consist of nine games with no bye weeks and culminate with a Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 19, when all 14 teams in the conference will play an opponent from the opposite division based on their final place in the division standings (1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, etc.)
Per the conference's announcement, all Big Ten football players and coaches will be required to undergo daily antigen testing beginning on Sept. 30. All COVID-19 positive athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing and must receive clearance from a cardiologist before returning, and will be unable to return to game action for 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis.
“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 Ohio State team physician Jim Borchers, 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.”
The decision to start the season in October comes after a tumultuous month in which the Big Ten faced substantial backlash from players, coaches, parents and fans following the conference's decision to postpone all fall sports. While the Big Ten and Pac-12 both chose to postpone fall sports on Aug. 11, the other Power 5 conferences did not follow suit, and the CFP is proceeding forward with semifinals on Jan. 1 and a national championship game on Jan. 11, though it did move its final rankings and field selection back to Dec. 20.
Eight days after the initial decision was announced, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in an open letter that the decision to postpone would “not be revisited.” But as six other conferences continued to push forward with playing this fall, the pressure for Big Ten presidents and chancellors to reconsider only increased.
Now, just over one month after 11 of 14 Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted against playing fall sports this year, the conference's decision-makers have done an about-face, and Ohio State and other teams throughout the conference will be playing football this fall after all.
“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes. Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,” Warren said Wednesday. “We are incredibly grateful for the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished to ensure the health, safety and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”
The Big Ten's announcement Wednesday did not include any announcements on when fall sports other than football, but per the conference's release, “updates regarding fall sports other than football, as well as winter sports that begin in the fall including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and wrestling, will be announced shortly.”