As many student-athletes and parents are criticizing the lack of standardized testing procedures in the NCAA, the Big Ten on Wednesday announced its own testing standards for its schools to follow.
Student-athletes must be tested at least once a week using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, and will be processed by a third party laboratory that all Big Ten institutions will use. Sports that involve high levels of contact will be tested at least twice a week and testing will begin once competition begins.
“Today’s announcement,” chair of Big Ten Council of Presidents Morton Schapiro said in a press release, “though subject to local, state and federal public health guidelines, provides a path forward for Big Ten student-athletes to return to competition based on comprehensive, conference-wide medical policies and protocols established by the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
“We will continue to evaluate the best available information and advice from public health officials as we make decisions and necessary adjustments going forward.”
Participation in fall sports will remain optional, and student-athletes who choose not to participate will keep their scholarships for the year and “remain in good standing with the team.” While the Big Ten announced its football schedule on Wednesday, it hasn’t done the same for the remaining fall sports, stating that the situation is fluid and those sports will be postponed until at least September 5.
Fluidity is the theme in all collegiate athletics’ return to campus: Despite successful early returns of student-athletes to campus, institutions across the country (including Michigan) have canceled some voluntary workouts because of positive COVID-19 tests.
The guidelines released today are a bare minimum for schools hoping to play, and certain colleges may put in place stricter policies for student-athletes. Additionally, as contact-tracing, other safety protocols or data trends come into play, the Big Ten is emphasizing flexibility in its policies.
“With the knowledge we have today, providing potential options for all of our student-athletes was of the utmost importance to us, all while ensuring there is a process in place to incorporate student-athlete feedback,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in the release. “While a comprehensive plan has been developed, we also know it is essential to continue to be agile as new information and health trends become available and we will adjust accordingly.”
Michigan classes start on Aug. 31, and the true extent of the disease’s impact on college athletics will only be known once students return to campus.