COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WDVM) – On Wednesday morning, the Big Ten conference reversed course, announcing plans to play their football season beginning the weekend of October 24th. It will include an 8-game season for each team, plus one cross-divisional game based on seeding.
In a statement from the Big Ten, it says The Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening, and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition. This daily testing will be available on September 30th, for all 14 conference members.
Following this announcement, the University of Maryland held a Zoom press conference with Head Team Physician and Assistant Director in the University Health Center Dr. Yvette Rooks, Athletic Director Damon Evans and Head Coach Michael Locksley.
Head Coach Michael Locksley said, “Yeah we actually met today (with his players), had a team meeting, kind of one of those emergency ones. And I can tell you every member of our team was excited to get the good news.”
“The next couple of weeks it will be really important for us that our players continue to do the behavior standpoint, to get us to where we are in that testing every day area of time.”, said Head Coach Michael Locksley.
The question of cost was brought up in the press conference, to which Athletic Director Damon Evans said, “We will be responsible for paying for testing. Each institution that is in the Big Ten will be responsible for paying for the rest that we utilize moving forward. As you might imagine, it could be quite expensive. I don’t know the exact dollar amount, right now, but if I had to take a guess it could be somewhere from $700,000 to one million dollars per institution to do this type of testing as comprehensive as we want to be.”
On top of cost, there is ethical concern; of giving so many resources to the athletic departments and teams and not to the student body or general public. Dr. Yvette Rooks says, “That came up when we were discussing the availability of testing. And a lot of us who are team physicians are also primary care physicians, i.e family doctors and so that was key for us that we weren’t taking away from communities or resources that really need them especially the communities at risk.”
“I am a proponent of the social inequities in health and so I would not be a part of a plan that was going to do that.” said Dr Yvette Rooks.
All 14 Big Ten schools have to report daily testing results to the league through an appointed Chief Infection Officer (but they are not obligated to share that information publicly). As teams collect data each day, they will use two metrics to decide if it’s safe to continue practicing and playing. These two metrics are team positivity rate and population positivity rate, based on a seven-day rolling average.
Specific thresholds must be met, in order for a team to be able to compete/practice. The league has assigned green, orange and red colors to separate zones, based on the positive case rates. Here’s how they break down:
- Team positivity rate:
- Green 0-2%
- Orange 2-5%
- Red >5%
- Population positivity rate:
- Green 0-3.5%
- Orange 3.5-7.5%
- Red >7.5%
According to their statement, decisions to alter or halt practice and competition will be based on the following scenarios:
- Green/Green and Green/Orange: Team continues with normal practice and competition.
- Orange/Orange and Orange/Red: Team must proceed with caution and enhance COVID-19 prevention (alter practice and meeting schedule, consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition).
- Red/Red: Team must stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and reassess metrics until improved.