Rutgers Football, Big Ten all set to return starting in October
Approximately a month after the conference announced it would postpone its football season, the Big Ten has reversed course and plans to begin games the weekend of Oct. 24.
“The Big Ten is coming back and will begin the weekend of Oct. 24,” Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported early Wednesday morning. “It’ll include daily, rapid testing as a fixture of the plan. A statement from the league is imminent.”
Along with daily rapid testing, the league will look for ways to mitigate contract tracing as well as myocarditis screening.
“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,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “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.”
However, rather than the 10-game regular season that was initially introduced, the teams will play a nine-game regular season with the final week’s matchup being determined by divisional finish.
“The presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten were presented with a proposal by the Medical Subcommittee of its Return to Competition Task Force that was sufficiently compelling that conference members now support a plan to begin playing football on October 24,” Rutgers University said in a statement. “The approved plan relies on daily rapid antigen testing of all athletes and other persons associated with each football program, on adherence to strict internal health protocols and on continual assessments of the health conditions for each team and the health conditions of its broader university community.”
The statement would continue.
“This is an approach that recognizes changing local health conditions, improvements in access to near-instantaneous antigen testing and an evolving understanding of effective health protocols,” it reads. “Assessments of the conditions at Rutgers, as well as those for each opponent, will be made regarding all upcoming games. Individual universities may suspend the return to competition on a week-to-week basis if they or their scheduled opponents are experiencing significant negative changes among players and staff or within the broader university community.
The Rutgers University Division of Intercollegiate Athletics will abide by those protocols and conditions and will rely on the input of the university’s medical professionals to assure the health and safety of everyone involved in a return to intercollegiate competition this semester.”
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway, who has been outspoken in his desire to keep the season postponed and cited President Donald Trump’s involvement in the ongoing saga as “cheap politics,” did not attach his name to the statement nor did Athletic Director Pat Hobbs or Head Coach Greg Schiano.
Furthermore, this change of heart comes shortly after a wave of backlash from many fans and relatives of players, as well as some athletes and coaches themselves, who felt the conference made its initial decision too hastily.
“While I understand the Big Ten Conference’s decision to postpone the football season because of health and safety considerations, the communication of information from the Big Ten following the decision has been disappointing and often unclear,” Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day said in a statement prior to today’s announcement. “However, we still have an opportunity to give our young men what they have worked so hard for: a chance to safely compete for a national championship this fall.”
One of the biggest gripes from those who wished to see Big Ten football played in the fall was the fact that fellow Power Five conferences in the SEC and ACC have begun its seasons while the Big Ten seemed content with waiting on the sidelines.
“These young men and their parents have asked so many questions that I do not have an answer to, but the one that hurts the most is ‘Why can these other teams and players play and we can’t?’ Duke is playing Notre Dame, and Clemson is playing Wake Forest this weekend,” Day concluded. “Our players want to know: why can’t they play?”