Leaders of the Big Ten universities voted unanimously to have a football season this fall, starting the weekend of Oct. 23, according to a news release Wednesday morning.
The decision comes as Penn State and other universities are facing rising numbers of COVID-19 cases among their students. Penn State has had 1,145 cases of COVID-19 so far. Centre County has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days, according to the state Department of Health.
The Big Ten will require daily testing of students, coaches, trainers and others who are on the field, according to the release. That daily testing will start Sept. 30.
“Yesterday, I voted to move forward with fall sports,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement. “I did so based on an extraordinary amount of effort by a Big Ten task force over the last month to create the necessary conditions for a COVID-free arena of play. Much has changed. Our new approach is data-driven and guided by a chief infection officer to be designated by each institution.”
The announcement outlines various steps it says the universities will have to take including cardiac testing of athletes who do get COVID-19 and setting up a database to study the effects of COVID-19 on athletes.
The information does not include a schedule of games.
The announcement says the Big Ten Conference will have three designations, based on a team’s and population’s average positivity rate over seven days. While “green,” playing and practice will continue as normal; extra precautions will be taken if the team has an “orange” designation and if the team is “orange” but the population is “red”; and practice and competition will stop when a team and total population are “red.”
For the team, the positivity rate will be:
- Green 0-2%
- Orange 2-5%
- Red >5%
For the population, the positivity rate will be:
- Green 0-3.5%
- Orange 3.5-7.5%
- Red >7.5%
The Big Ten had previously decided not to play football this fall, citing health concerns and uncertainty. That followed initial plans for the Nittany Lions to play in an empty stadium.
The release says information about other fall sports will be announced shortly.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.