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10 things to know about Big Ten football’s COVID-19 protocols

Ohio State coach Ryan Day said it was “torture” watching other Power 5 conferences play on Saturdays while his team had to take a knee.

But Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren doesn’t share that view.

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“No, it hasn’t been (tough),” Warren told the Tribune. “We needed the time. I am so pleased with where we are now compared to August. We’ve used the time wisely, and I feel prepared.”

And confident — at least in the short term.

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“I’m looking forward to the Big Ten dominating college football this weekend,” Warren said in a moment of uncharacteristic boldness.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Minneapolis on Saturday for Michigan-Minnesota, as will Warren, who will attend a Big Ten game every weekend. And Fox Sports' “Big Noon” pregame show will be in Columbus, Ohio, for Nebraska-Ohio State.

So Week 1 is assured. But beyond?

The Big Ten is walking a tightrope, planning for nine games over nine weeks. Here are 10 things to know about COVID-19 testing protocols and what happens if a team has roster issues:

1. The Big Ten’s game cancellation policy, as laid out Thursday, is consistent with what the conference described Sept. 16 when it announced a return to football.

If either team’s positivity rate is greater than 5% and its population — including coaches and on-field staff — is greater than 7.5%, the game will be canceled and considered a no contest. In that case, neither team would get the win or loss.

2. That is a far tougher standard than the 53-player requirement in the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12, which opens Nov. 7.

The ACC policy requires an “adequate” number of healthy players.

The ACC postponed the Notre Dame-Wake Forest game after the Fighting Irish revealed they had 13 players in isolation (positive tests) and another 10 in quarantine because of contract tracing.

With a 100-player Big Ten roster, 5% is five players. And 7.5% is seven to eight among a team’s population of players, coaches, trainers and staff.

3. Conference officials would not say if there’s a set day or deadline to determine the cancellation of a game.

4. The Big Ten has daily rapid antigen (swab or saliva) testing for players, coaches and staff who interact with them.

Those who test positive have their test confirmed by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab test.

5. Players who test positive for COVID-19 will be held out of games and practice for a minimum of 21 days.

During that third week, players can take part in cardiovascular activities. They also go through a cardiac evaluation and need to gain clearance from doctors before returning.

6. Coaches who test positive, such as Purdue’s Jeff Brohm, face 10 days of isolation.

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm yells to an official during a game against TCU on Sept. 14, 2019, in West Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm yells to an official during a game against TCU on Sept. 14, 2019, in West Lafayette, Ind. (Michael Conroy/AP)

“We feel positive about out testing protocols,” Warren said. “But we’re in a pandemic and certain things we can’t control. We are cautiously optimistic that we will have a great season (without interruption).”

7. The Big Ten’s sideline facial covering enforcement policy calls for each school to be responsible for its coaches.

The conference does not plan to fine coaches who forget to raise their face masks.

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Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the conference will be “sensitive to the times when (coach) Ryan Day is in the middle of a call and his mask is down. We will have someone there to remind him.”

Smith said the Buckeyes' designated reminder on staff will be akin to the “Get Back” coach who helps teams avoid sideline warnings and penalties.

8. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has been wearing a shield during practices, allowing players to see his face and read his lips.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, left, wears a face shield and linebacker Paddy Fisher a face mask during practice this fall in Evanston.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, left, wears a face shield and linebacker Paddy Fisher a face mask during practice this fall in Evanston. (HANDOUT)

Fitzgerald said it’s his “understanding,” though, that masks will be required during games.

9. No team is permitted to sell tickets to the general public, out of both safety and fairness.

Wisconsin is not even permitted to have family members of players and coaches at Camp Randall Stadium on Friday for their game against Illinois because of COVID spikes in the state, so the conference thought it fair that every team play by the same rules.

That policy will be revisited each week.

10. Teams apparently are not required to provide an inactive list to opponents.

Officials from Michigan and Penn State have indicated to the conference that they might not even supply one before kickoff.

Fitzgerald half-joked that his inactive list will go public one second before kickoff.

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