Big Ten approves football's return to play, to start Oct. 24
Update (10:30 a.m.): Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez confirms that there will be a "champions week" in which an eight-game schedule is followed by a conference championship on Dec. 19, as well as a two vs. two, three vs. three, and so on through both divisions.
"We will play eight games, plus one. A very unique champions week where the teams from the east and west will matchup and play one another," Alvarez said. "With the championship game being played at the end of that week, Dec. 18 and 19."
Original story: Penn State football and the Big Ten are back.
Announced Wednesday morning, Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin detailed his enthusiasm for the season to get started on October 24. The conference championship game is expected to be played on Dec. 19, one day before the College Football Playoff announces its four teams.
"We are excited for our guys to have the opportunity to get back to action safely on October 24," Franklin wrote via Twitter. "These last several months have been riddled with uncertainty for our student-athletes, but they have handled it with class and dignity. Our guys have remained relentless in following our Covid-19 protocols and in their preparations to be ready to play football.
"We would like to thank Eric Barron and Sandy Barbour for their continued support and efforts in helping us return. We are so appreciative of the work the Big Ten's Return to Competition Task Force put in to give us a safe path to playing football this fall. We are also thankful the Presidents and Chancellors of the Big Ten considered the information presented and voted for the safe return to play."
For his part, Franklin has been vocal since the Aug. 11 announcement that further explanation and communication was necessary for the decision and, maybe more important, that avenues to playing still existed.
Joining an in-house Penn State podcast this past week, in fact, Franklin made note of the major concerns and questions expressed by Big Ten presidents and chancellors in August that had since been mitigated.
"I don't think there's any left. There's about 13 or 14 medical procedures and policies that we had to have in place that was universal throughout the conference, and they've really been answered now," Franklin said. "So now it's getting everybody in the room and making the decision and saying, let's go."
That process finally transpired this weekend and into the new week.
Beginning with a presentation by the Big Ten's task force consisting of medical experts, athletic directors and others on Saturday, the conference reportedly brought all of its presidents and chancellors together for another presentation Sunday.
The task force, co-chaired by Barbour, was then able to produce the outcome that had long been hoped.
"I am thankful the Big Ten's Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COPC) considered the information presented by the Big Ten's Return to Competition Task Force and determined we would return to football competition this fall," Barbour stated via Twitter. "I appreciate the COPC's vigilance in continually keeping the health and well-being of our student-athletes as the top priority and deciding to move forward to a return after determining we can do so safely.
"The opportunity to safely return to athletic competition is a positive for not only our athletics department, but our campus community and Penn State nation. Most importantly, I am thrilled for our student-athletes, coaches and staff, as I know how much continued hard work they have put in during this summer and fall with their eyes on returning to competition.
"As always, the Big Ten has placed health and safety at the forefront. The outlined return to competition protocol places the priority on that principle, as well as establishing several research initiatives as we work together to address the health and societal impacts of Covid-19."