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Penn State Football: Big Ten Will Begin Play in Late October

on September 16, 2020 9:30 AM

Just over a month after postponing its entire fall sports season, the Big Ten Conference announced on Wednesday morning that its football programs will in fact return to play in 2020, taking the field for competition on Oct. 23-24.

In mid August, conference Presidents and Chancellors voted 11-3 in favor of postponing the fall sports season in a move that Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said — amid protest from fans, players and families — would "not be revisited.”

The league stated on Wednesday that the vote to return to play was unanimous.

"We are excited for our guys to have the opportunity to get back to action safely on October 24," Penn State coach James Franklin said on Twitter.

"These last several months have been riddled with uncertainty for our student-athletes, but they have handled it with class and dignity. Our guys have remained relentless in following our COVID-19 protocols and in their preparations to be be ready to play football. We would like to than Eric Barron and Sandy Barbour for their continued support and efforts in helping us return. We are so appreciate of the work the Big Ten's return to competition last force put in to give us a safe path to playing football this fall. We are also thankful the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten considered the information presented and voted for the safe return to play."

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.

“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,” said Warren in a press release. “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 Conference will use data provided by each Chief Infection Officer (CInO) to make decisions about the continuation of practice and competition, as determined by team positivity rate and population positivity rate, based on a seven-day rolling average:

  • 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%

Decisions to alter or halt practice and competition will be based on the following scenarios:

  • Green/Green and Green/Orange: Team continues with normal practice and competition.
  • 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.

The daily testing will begin by September 30, 2020. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis. Penn State announced 48 COVID-19 positive tests last week, initiating the pause of several programs within the department although football was not among those impacted by the spike in on-campus cases. 

All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Following cardiac evaluation, student-athletes must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by the university for the primary purpose of cardiac clearance for COVID-19 positive student-athletes. 

A Big Ten title game on December 19 would squeeze in an abbreviated season prior to the College Football Playoff Committee's selection. The conference is expected to be eligible for playoff contention.

Eventually all Big Ten sports will require testing protocols before they can resume competition. Updates regarding fall sports other than football will be announced shortly, according to the conference.

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