Penn State Football Returning to Play Oct. 23-24th

By: Thomas Frank Carr

After over a month of back-and-forth, the Big 10 announced their return to play program this morning. While games will return to Happy Valley, fans will not be in attendance according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, at least to begin with.

The Big 10 will begin daily testing for athletes as of September 30th, and eventually all fall sports will adopt the same protocols for their return to play.

“The Big Ten will require student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.”

Not only will players undergo daily testing, they will also go through a battery of tests, to ensure that each player does not have the underlying condition, myocarditis. Myocarditis, or the inflammation of the heart tissue, was a major sticking point for university presidents that caused a shutdown of all fall sports in August.

“All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Following cardiac evaluation, student-athletes must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by the university for the primary purpose of cardiac clearance for COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis.”

These protocols represent the most stringent that have been enforced among the Power 5 conferences. That being said, one or two tests will not derail a team. The conference will have benchmarks for pausing practice or reevaluating their in-house protocols.

  • Team positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered):
    • Green 0-2%
    • Orange 2-5%
    • Red >5%
  • Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):
    • Green 0-3.5%
    • Orange 3.5-7.5%
    • Red >7.5%

Decisions to alter or halt practice and competition will be based on the following scenarios:

  • Green/Green and Green/Orange: Team continues with normal practice and competition.
  • Orange/Orange and Orange/Red: Team must proceed with caution and enhance COVID-19 prevention (alter practice and meeting schedule, consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition).
  • Red/Red: Team must stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and reassess metrics until improved.

Head Coach James Franklin’s statement about the team’s return to play;

“These last several months have been riddled with uncertainty for our student-athletes, but they have handled it with class and dignity. Our guys have remained relentless in following our COVID-19 protocols and in their preparations to be ready to play football. We would like to thank Eric Barron and Sandy Barbour for their continued support and efforts in helping us return. We are so appreciative of the work the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force put in to give us a safe path to playing football this fall.”