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Big Ten Votes to Start Football Season in October

The Big Ten announced Wednesday that the league has voted to reverse its initial decision and begin its college football season this fall. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the news.

The season will start the weekend of Oct. 23–24. According to Yahoo Sports's Dan Wetzel, the conference title game will be Dec. 19 after playing eight games in eight weeks. Dec. 19 is one day before the College Football Playoff field is set to be announced.

In its announcement, the Big Ten cited "daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition," as reasons behind its decision to play a fall season being possible.

The conference's vote follows a meeting with chancellors and presidents on Sunday reviewing the latest medical information. Prior to the meeting, the group was expected to possibly vote on playing this fall after the medical subcommittee of the Big Ten's return to competition task force held a smaller assembly on Saturday. However, the vote did not occur on Sunday.

On Aug. 11, the Big Ten postponed all fall sports, including football, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Hours later, the Pac-12 followed suit, and both conferences said they would attempt to hold their football seasons in spring 2021.

However, several Big Ten head coaches were quick to criticize the decision. Nebraska's Scott Frost said the Huskers weren't giving up hope that they could find a way to play in 2020, while Ohio State's Ryan Day regularly lobbied for the Big Ten to return this fall and give players a chance to compete

Scrutiny of the Big Ten continued after the remaining Power 5 conferences—the SEC, ACC and Big 12—confirmed they would hold shortened seasons featuring mostly conference-only matchups. Parents of Big Ten players protested outside the conference's headquarter in Chicago, and President Donald Trump called commissioner Kevin Warren in early September to ask what the federal government could do to help the league play football this fall. 

The initial vote to postpone the Big Ten's fall season reportedly was 11–3, with only Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa pushing to play. In order to reverse that decision, six presidents had to change their August votes and exceed the 60% mark required by Big Ten bylaws. 

Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank confirmed on Tuesday that the conference shut down fall sports for two primary reasons—an inability to test adequately enough and uncertain heart-related issues surrounding COVID-19—and would not reverse its decision until it had "answers" on those matters.

Following the Big Ten's announcement, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said that the conference is not yet ready to play as its universities do not have approval from public health officials to begin contact practice. Scott added that they are equally monitoring the "devastating fires and air quality" in their region and are hopeful that their "new daily testing capacity" will help lead public health officials to approve contact practice and competition.