A plan to bring Big Ten Conference football back to the field in 2020 cleared a hurdle on Saturday, and will move to another vote of the conference’s Council of Presidents/Chancellors.

A group of eight presidents and chancellors on a steering committee heard a proposal from the Big Ten’s medical advisory board on new testing procedures and considerations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The COP/C voted 11-3 last month to cancel the football and fall sports seasons due to COVID-19 concerns, including heart conditions related to contracting the virus.

But advancements in testing — particularly rapid-response antigen testing — have created a chance to allay some of the COP/C’s concerns regarding virus containment and contact tracing.

According to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel and multiple other media reports, the full Big Ten COP/C will vote in the next 72 hours regarding the conference’s return-to-play plan. If the COP/C accepts the new processes from the medical board, it will determine if and when the conference can start play. At least six presidents/chancellors will have to change their “No” votes to allow the conference to play.

Multiple dates are being discussed, with the earliest being Oct. 17. Dates in November and December are also in consideration.

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Alvarez

University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez chairs the conference’s return-to-play task force.

“Before the presidents and chancellors give us the go-ahead to play ... they’re going to have to feel comfortable that the medical questions that they had, the things that were presented to them by our doctors in the Big Ten, that they’re answered,” Alvarez said on his monthly radio show, which aired Wednesday night on 1310 WIBA and Learfield/IMG College.

Plans for a quick restart of football may be tempered by the workout stoppages UW and Maryland’s football teams are under due to COVID-19 testing results. UW isn’t releasing testing numbers for each team, but shared this week that 83 of the 734 student-athletes who have returned to campus since June have tested positive for COVID-19.

UW and other Big Ten campuses are experiencing outbreaks that have caused moves to online instruction and mass quarantines.

Waiting much longer than late November to play will significantly alter the 2021 fall season, which Big Ten officials want to avoid.

“That was the first thing on our committee when you talked to coaches, what do you want 2021 to look like? They want to get back to normal. If you’re going to play some games this year, you can’t go too deep into the spring because it doesn’t give you enough recovery time. So that closes your window as you take a look at possibilities. Then you take a look at answering the medical questions with that smaller window. That’s what creates the problem,” Alvarez said on his show.

Politicians at a variety of levels — including President Donald Trump and Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald — have urged the Big Ten to return to play. Trump spoke with conference commissioner Kevin Warren earlier this month regarding the needs of the conference in its attempt to play.

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 were the only two Power Five conferences to postpone their football seasons due to COVID-19. The Big 12 and the ACC opened their seasons Saturday, while the SEC is slated to begin games Sept. 26.

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