After plans to postpone the fall season, football is back in the Big Ten.

Hold your calendars for the weekend of Oct. 23–24 because that is when Big Ten Conference football kicks off.

League officials announced Sept. 16 that enough medical protocols are now in place to safely play a college football season, following in the footsteps of other major conferences, such as the SEC, Big 12, and ACC. 

“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 The Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee, in a statement. 

The move is a reversal from an early August decision to delay fall sports, including football, until further notice because of COVID-19 safety concerns. Those concerns have been alleviated thanks to several safety measures: daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screenings, and other data-driven models to help teams make key decisions about practicing and playing.

All 14 of the Big Ten member schools voted in favor of restoring the season. Each college will pick a Chief Infection Officer (CInO) to oversee all testing efforts and subsequent data reporting, keeping the process transparent for student-athletes and fans alike. To that end, a registry will be created to help document the impacts COVID-19 has on student-athletes who test positive.

“From the onset of the pandemic, our highest priority has been the health and the safety of our students.  The new medical protocols and standards put into place by the Big Ten Return To Competition Task Force were pivotal in the decision to move forward with sports in the conference,” said Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University president, in a statement.

Now, in addition to tracking the score in each of the eight conference regular season games scheduled in the Big Ten, fans can also track the team’s positivity rate in this color-coded system created by the conference:

Team positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered)

  • Green: 0%-2%
  • Orange: 2%-5%
  • Red: More than 5%

Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk)

  • Green: 0%-3.5%
  • Orange: 3.5%-7.5%
  • Red: More than 7.5%

Should a team stay in green/green or green/orange, they continue with normal practice and competition, according to the conference. If results increase to orange/orange and orange/red status, the team must alter its practice schedule and consider rescheduling games. And if a Big Ten football program hits red/red status in both ratings, then all practices and competition must stop for at least 7 days.

So now you can root for your favorite Big Ten college football to stay healthy as well as win on the field. And in case you don’t know every team in the Big Ten Conference, schools include: The University of Illinois, Indiana University, The University of Iowa, The University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, and the University of Wisconsin. 

What school do you intend to root for once Big Ten football season kicks off? Leave us a comment and let us know!