Fall football is on for UW-Madison and the Big Ten.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told reporters earlier this week that a Big Ten fall football conference would need buy-in from all fourteen schools in the conference.
“I will say we’re all going to move together in the Big Ten,” she says. “We’re all going to play or not, if we possibly can. This is not going to be a school by school thing.”
Chancellor Blank largely dodged a reporter’s question on whether or not the conference would go ahead with a season in 2020. She said there had been discussions about rescheduling the conference but she was “not going to say anything more about it at this point.”
But Tuesday, the Big Ten’s Council voted unanimously to move forward with fall football, reversing last month’s decision to postpone the season.
In a press release supporting the decision, Chancellor Blank wrote that “The health and safety of our student-athletes and coaching staff has always been my biggest concern when thinking about playing a Big Ten Football season this year.”
Yesterday, Public Health Madison Dane County reported that 42 Badgers football players and staff have been infected with the coronavirus.
“We wanted to make sure that we put the health and safety of our student athletes at the forefront of all of our decisions,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a press conference yesterday.
The decision also comes after legislative leaders from six different states, including Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, sent a letter to Commissioner Warren pushing for a fall season.
The cosigners on the letter wrote that “These athletes are losing a vital part of student life and are becoming less marketable to future employers with each passing week. Additionally, our local universities stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars that support vital student scholarships.”
The season will begin October 23rd and run through December. In yesterday’s press conference, UW-Madison’s Director of Athletics, Barry Alvarez, noted that the season would be significantly different than a standard fall program.
Alvarez also serves on the conference’s six-person Return to Competition Taskforce, which guided the structure of the upcoming fall season.
“We will play eight games, plus one,” Alvarez says. ” Including a very unique champions week, where teams from the east and west will match up and play one another, with the final championship game being played December 18th and 19th.”
As part of its plan, the conference will be administering antigen tests to each player and staff member. Those tests must be completed before anyone takes the field for a practice or game.
Each school will also be required to appoint a Chief Infection Officer, who will be tasked with collecting and overseeing testing data for each institution. Team test positivity rate and population positivity rate threshold standards will be used to determine if continuing practice and competition is viable.
Locally, Public Health is warning that the health risks aren’t just to the players. In a press release yesterday, the department urged residents not to tailgate.
Since it’s return to campus, UW-Madison has reported more than 1600 positive on campus cases. This week is the first since returning to campus that the 7-day average for positive case rates has begun to decrease.
In her press release applauding the Big Ten’s decision, Chancellor Blank did not clarify if fall football games would feature live crowds.
(Photo c/o Brian Standing)