The Big Ten has reversed course and will play a 2020 football season after all, following improved testing for the coronavirus and pressure from schools within the conference.

An official announcement was made Wednesday morning, just 36 days after the Big Ten officially postponed all fall sports because of the pandemic. The weekend of Oct. 23-24 appears to be the target date to start the season.

Eleven of the Big Ten’s school presidents and chancellors voted to postpone the season last month amid concerns about the conference’s ability to play sports safely, especially in light of potential long-term effects for student-athletes who contract the virus. Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart linked to the coronavirus, was found in a number of Big Ten athletes.

The new Big Ten Council medical protocols, include enhanced cardiac screening, played a big role in the decision to return.

“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, head team physician at Ohio State 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.”

The Big Ten was presented with at least four new daily rapid coronavirus tests this past weekend, ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported. Rapid testing allowed the NFL to play Week 1 of the 2020 season without any disruptions.

Three of the Power Five college football conferences already have gone forward with the the Pac-12 now the only holdout.  

 

 

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields started a petition for the Big Ten to reinstate football. The #WeWantToPlay petition has over 300,000 signatures.

A Heisman Trophy candidate, Fields gives Ohio State a chance to compete for the national championship. If not for the Buckeyes, the Big Ten might still be preparing for spring football.

“This is driven in a lot of ways because of Ohio State,” ESPN’s Paul Finebaum said on “Get Up” Wednesday morning. “They have one of the two or three best teams in the country. They have one of the best players in Justin Fields, and I think without that we may not be here today. Ohio State and Ryan Day, the head coach, drove this bus.”

Ohio State ranked second in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll.

 

 

There has been plenty of political pressure on the Big Ten, as well, most notably from President Donald Trump. Trump spoke with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren earlier this month in an attempt to salvage the season. 

If the Big Ten starts its season on Oct. 23, the conference will have nine weeks before the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses the four teams that will make the postseason. The Big Ten could play an eight-game conference-only schedule.

Justin Field Ohio State Quarterback Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes scrambles with the football during the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at State Farm Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images