Football | 9/16/2020 9:28:00 AM
The Big Ten Conference announced the restart of its 2020-21 football season, with play scheduled to begin October 23-24.
On Aug. 11, the Big Ten Conference postponed the start of the season in response to the many unknowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and potential risks to student-athlete health and safety. Since then the Conference has relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, a working group that was established by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors and league Commissioner Kevin Warren to ensure a collaborative and transparent process
In its decision today to return to competition, the Conference cited multiple factors, including daily antigen testing, focused research on sports medicine and safety by all Big Ten schools and a strict heart protocol process for any student-athlete who has tested positive for COVID-19 before they can return to play.
“I support restarting the Big Ten football season,” said University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel. “The health and safety of our student-athletes and the community that surrounds them was and has always been our top priority. We have continued to listen to medical professionals and follow their expert advice during the past month. With the additional research, enhanced safety protocols, and a commitment to work closely together as a conference on research and safety for student-athletes, we are now ready to play football.”
Every Big Ten football program will have daily access to antigen testing and all 14 Big Ten universities will share information throughout the season to enhance and accelerate research and will collaborate to mitigate COVID-19 transmission risks.
“The University of Minnesota sports medicine team has worked with the other medical professionals in the Big Ten to develop protocols that now allow the safe return of football,” said Dr. Bradley Nelson, who is the medical director for Gopher Athletics.
Minnesota’s Director of Athletics Mark Coyle has worked daily with fellow league athletic directors and head coaches as the Conference continued conversations about a return to play.
“I want to thank President Joan Gabel for her continued leadership and our football student-athletes for their patience and understanding,” said Coyle. “The plan to restart football has been methodical and prudent and has always placed the safety and wellness of the student-athlete first. I am excited for our football student-athletes and for our fans who will once again be able to watch the Gophers compete.”
Minnesota, which was ranked No. 19 in the preseason AP poll this year, finished last season 11-2 and ranked No. 10 in the nation after beating Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
“We have a mature football team, and our culture is about responding,” said Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck. “We will be ready to play, and I know our players are excited to be able to compete again.”
As was previously announced by Gopher Athletics, the department will not offer football-season tickets this year and in-person attendance at games will be significantly reduced in accordance with the state’s public health guidelines.