Ohio State football is coming back in October.
In a reversal from last month, the Big Ten presidents voted unanimously to resume the football season starting the weekend of Oct. 23-24, 2020.
The conference announced Wednesday that each team will have an eight-game schedule, although fans won't be allowed inside stadiums. Along with a return date, the conference also set requirements for safety protocols such as daily antigen testing for all student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other on-field individuals.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 before a practice or game must then take a PCR test, which is more accurate, to confirm the result.
“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, Ohio State head physician and co-chair of the Big Ten's Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee.
Details about the date and location of the season have yet to be released.
The decision to resume competition comes a little more than a month after the conference's controversial move in August to postpone all fall sports. The initial vote was reportedly 11-3 in favor of postponing, with Ohio State among the schools voting against.
That cancellation was itself a reversal from the Big Ten's announcement just a few weeks before of a condensed 10-game schedule, which would have pitted Ohio State against Illinois for its first game on September 3.
Ohio State's head coach Ryan Day and quarterback Justin Fields were among the most vocal critics of the Big Ten's postponement, which was expected to take a large toll on the university's finances and the professional prospects of many Ohio State players.
"While I understand the Big Ten Conference's decision to postpone the football season because of health and safety considerations, the communication of information from the Big Ten following the decision has been disappointing and often unclear," Day said last week. "However, we still have an opportunity to give our young men what they have worked so hard for: a chance to safely compete for a national championship this fall."
While other college football conferences like the SEC and Big 12 moved ahead with their seasons, several Ohio State players – including preseason All-American cornerback Shaun Wade and offensive guard Wyatt Davis – decided to opt out entirely in order to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft.
Ohio State's new president Kristina Johnson says she "enthusiastically" supports the Big Ten's change of course, and applauded the work of the medical group advising the conference.
"The plan developed by the subcommittee, which provides rigorous testing protocols to keep our student-athletes safe when they cannot social distance and wear masks, was crucial in reaching a unanimous decision for our football teams to return to competition and to have our athletics directors work with the coaches of all fall sports to develop schedules for their return to competition," Johnson said in a statement.
So excited for Buckeye Nation and enthusiastically support unanimous @bigten decision to give our student-athletes an opportunity to compete in the sports they love this fall. Grateful to Big Ten colleagues, @OSU_AD, @ryandaytime, and all our coaches and athletes. Go Buckeyes!— Kristina M. Johnson (@PresKMJohnson) September 16, 2020
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren has defended the initial vote and previously said the conference would not reconsider postponing fall sports, citing increasing COVID-19 transmission rates and uncertainties around recovery and long-term effects. But he wrote on Wednesday that the goal has always been to return to competition.
“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes," Warren said.
The Big Ten will start daily testing by September 30. The conference says it will use data on positivity rates within the teams and the larger community to make decisions about altering or pausing practices and games.
Universities will also require students who test positive to undergo cardiac testing, in order to screen for myocarditis, and be cleared by a school-designated cardiologist before returning to play. Students will be restricted from competing again until at least 21 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
According to Ohio State's coronavirus dashboard, 2,253 students and 33 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday. That's a 3.83% positivity rate among students and a 1.84% positivity rate among employees.
Ohio State has not disclosed how many athletes have tested positive, although the school halted voluntary workouts for a week in July following a round of COVID-19 tests.
The conference says it will announce updates on other delayed sports soon.
This story will be updated as more information develops.