Big Ten Reverses Decision, Allows Football to Play This Season
In a surprising turn of events, Big Ten football teams, which includes Indiana and Purdue, will suit up and play games this year after being told the season would be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early August.
The conference announced on Tuesday that all 14 university presidents voted unanimously in favor of letting the teams play a shortened schedule that will begin the weekend of October 23rd and 24th. Why the change of heart? According to the official statement from the conference, the presidents felt comfortable allowing play to resume after learning of new testing procedures, contact tracing, and quarantine policies developed by medical sub-committee of the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force.
You can see the full details of those procedures in the conference's statement, but I'll give you the Cliff Notes version. Essentially anyone and everyone that is on field for either practices, games, or both will undergo daily testing. If someone tests positive, they will need quarantine away from the rest of the team. However, it will be for a minimum of 21 days instead of the standard 14 before they can return to competition. The reason for that being that all student-athletes who test positive will then undergo "comprehensive cardiac testing." The data obtained from that testing will go into a database designed to "answer many of the unknowns regarding the cardiac manifestations in COVID-19 positive elite athletes."
As for the schedule, according to Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich at ESPN.com, each team will play eight games, four at home, four on the road. Six of those games will be against teams within the same division (the conference is divided into East and West divisions, each with seven teams), while the other two games will be cross-division games.
Using Indiana as an example, they will play Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, and Rutgers as their six division games. Their two cross-division games will be against some combination of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue, Nebraska, and Northwestern.
With Indiana and Purdue being in different divisions, it's certainly possible the annual Old Oaken Bucket game won't be played this season. If that's the case, it will be the first time the two teams haven't played each other in a season since 1919 (if Wikipedia is to be believed).
The exact schedule for each team hasn't been released yet, but according to the same ESPN article, they are expected to be released later this week. I would hope the schedule makers would honor the tradition of the rivalry and make sure the two teams meet at some point over the course of the shortened season, even if it's not the final game of the regular season as it has been for a number of years.
Regardless of whether it happens or not, I imagine a majority of the players and coaches on both teams are thrilled they get to play period.