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Big Ten to start its college football season next month

September 16, 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Big Ten Conference on Wednesday said it would launch its college football season the weekend of Oct. 23-24 after adopting “significant medical protocols” amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had repeatedly pressured the conference to play this fall, hailed the move in a separate post on Twitter.

“Great News: BIG TEN FOOTBALL IS BACK,” tweeted Trump. “All teams to participate. Thank you to the players, coaches, parents, and all school representatives. Have a FANTASTIC SEASON! It is my great honor to have helped!!!”

The decision to play is a dramatic change of course for the Big Ten after it postponed the season over health and safety concerns for athletes, with the United States in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed over 195,000 American lives.

“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love.”

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors said it has put in place significant medical protocols, including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions that would allow practices and games to proceed.

Each school will designate a chief infection officer who will oversee the collection and reporting of data.

Daily testing will begin by Sept. 30. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a positive COVID-19 test.

“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 of Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee.

The Big Ten said decisions on other sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, ice hockey, swimming and diving and wrestling, will be announced shortly.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Franklin Paul, Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)

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