Big Ten football, including Northwestern and Illinois, to return next month

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Big Ten football is coming back in 2020, with the season to start on October 23-24, the conference announced Wednesday.

All athletes, coaches, trainers and all others on the field for all practices and games will be required to undergo daily testing.

Northwestern redshirt sophomore Ray Niro said he has been looking forward to playing football this fall since the end of last season.

The running back from Barrington is looking to make a big impact this year at Northwestern.

Thanks to the Big Ten's decision to bring football back this fall, he's going to have the opportunity.

His parents' home is filled with photos of their kids, including action shots of Ray playing at Northwestern.

They have a scrapbook from his high school exploits as well.

But they have no illusions about the dangers of Covid-19.

"As much as we didn't like them postponing the season, we like that they're cautious with the boys," said Amanda Niro.

Big Ten officials said the availability of rapid testing helps make it possible to return to the field.

"I think we have been very comfortable with the idea that we'll be able to provide daily rapid testing. That will give us great surveillance of our student athletes and those individuals involved in those competitions," said Dr. James Borchers, the team physician at Ohio State University.

"We understand it's very serious but the medical staffs at these universities are the best in the world," said James Van Ness.

Hisson, Lukas, is an incoming freshman defensive end at Iowa. He has been in Iowa City since June training with the team.

Nick Marozas from Brother Rice is a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman at Indiana who is also thrilled to return.

"We took vacations based on getting to see him playing. That was all cancelled. But with it back on, we're excited," said his father Mike Marozas.

"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, The Ohio State University and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee.

The plan was approved by a unanimous vote by The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors.

Each school will have a chief infection offcer to oversee to oversee the collecting and reporting of data for the conference.

"Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes. Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love," said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. "We are incredibly grateful for the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished to ensure the health, safety and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators."

According to ABC News, the decision was made after several days of debate among the university's presidents and chancellors in light of spiking COVID-19 cases at colleges and universities across the country.

The Big Ten conference includes several schools in our region, including Northwestern and Illinois.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported the Big Ten presidents were presented a comprehensive plan to conduct a fall football season, but a final decision was still to come.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation told the AP that the full Council of Presidents and Chancellors heard from all the subcommittees of the conference's Return to Competition Task Force over two and half hours. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten was not making its return to competition plans public.

The person said the meeting broke up without the presidents and chancellors voting and with no set plans for them to reconvene.

The AP reported if the Big Ten can start by late October, an eight-game season and conference championship game in mid-December is still possible. That schedule could set up Big Ten teams to be part of the College Football Playoff.
Back on August 11, the Big Ten announced the postponement of fall sports because of concerns about COVID-19.

An hour after the Big Ten's postponement announcement, the Pac-12, the Big Ten's Rose Bowl partner, called a news conference to say that all sports in its conference would be paused until Jan. 1, including basketball.

Before postponing its season, the Big Ten's had released a revised conference-only football schedule that it hoped would help it navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

The Big Ten touts itself as the oldest college athletic conference in the country, dating back to 1896 when it was called the Western Conference, and its schools have been playing football ever since. It became the Big Ten in 1918 and grew into a football powerhouse.
The 14 Big Ten schools span from Maryland and Rutgers on the East Coast to Iowa and Nebraska out west. Not only has it been one of the most successful conferences on the field, but off the field it has become one of the wealthiest.

The Big Ten, with its lucrative television network, distributes about $50 million per year to its members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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