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Big Ten has plan in place for football season starting in October

Football is coming back.

Redbox Bowl - California v Illinois Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Just a little over a month after the Big Ten announced that it was postponing all fall sports, football will be back.

With more stringent testing measures, the season will begin the weekend of Oct. 23. The Big Ten announced the vote among the Council of Presidents and Chancellors was unanimous.

“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes. Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful for the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished to ensure the health, safety and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”

Playing eight games in eight weeks allows the conference’s title game to be played Dec. 19, which is ahead of the College Football Playoff’s Selection Show on Dec. 20.

The news originally broke on Tuesday morning after a hot mic picked up University of Nebraska president Ted Carter saying the return was to be announced Tuesday night.

The Big Ten was one of two Power-5 conferences to postpone fall sports as the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 carried on business as usual over the weekend. Several Illinois football players took to social media to voice their frustrations in recent weeks as other conferences opened up their seasons.

Despite 18 positive reported tests among football players by early August (since the team returned to campus in June), Lovie Smith said at the time, “We feel like Champaign is as safe of a place as you could be right now.” The University has been regarded as one of the best at handling the coronavirus due to its testing implementations, despite having to have asked students to isolate for two weeks earlier in September.

In a statement Wednesday, Smith continued his optimistic comments: “We feel that the University of Illinois has the strongest testing system and protocol of anyone in the nation and that we can compete while keeping our players safe. Our team has put in some incredible work over the last several months and after meeting with them earlier today, I know they are extremely excited to start preparing for the 2020 season.”

While Athletic Director Josh Whitman and Smith had very little say in the University’s and Big Ten’s decision on football, both said last month in a news conference that they were focused on the future after the season’s postponement.

Today, Whitman seems enthusiastic.

At the time, Whitman said about a potential spring season: “We intend to continue to evaluate that.We believe that’s a very real possibility for the return of competition in our fall sports. We’re actively studying that. I think what’s really important to me, and I think to all of our athletic directors, is making sure that is a meaningful, substantive opportunity. If we’re going to ask our student-athletes to use a year of their eligibility to participate, then it’s got to be worth it for them.”

In a revised 10-game schedule created by the conference last month, Illinois was slated to open the Power Five football season at home against then-No. 2 Ohio State on Thursday, Sept. 3. Early reports on the league’s season would have an eight-game schedule played over nine weeks, but the season was then scrapped on Aug. 11. Six of those eight games would likely be against the Illini’s Big Ten West rivals.

Players are already reacting to the big news that there will be a season.