The move will probably appease some prominent coaches, parents, players, fans and even President Trump, but it is also likely to provoke new accusations that the league is prioritizing profits and entertainment over health and safety.
In a statement on Wednesday morning, the league said players, coaches, trainers and others on the field would undergo daily testing for the virus, and that any player who tested positive would be barred from games for at least 21 days.
Leagues that have already returned to play, like the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12, have been forced to postpone a handful of games or bench players because of positive tests or exposure to the virus. Stadiums are operating with fewer spectators in the stands or none at all.
Complicating matters is the association between football and social gatherings like tailgate parties. Health officials near some Big Ten campuses, including Michigan State and Wisconsin, have begun cracking down on students for partying, threatening harsh penalties and putting fraternities and sororities under quarantine. In Ingham County, home to Michigan State University, local health officials ordered residents of nearly two dozen Greek houses, as well as several other group houses, to quarantine for 14 days after the university reported 160 new cases.
“While we know many students are doing the right thing, we are still seeing far too many social gatherings in the off-campus community, where individuals are in close contact without face coverings,” Mayor Aaron Stephens of East Lansing said on Saturday of the order.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is also part of the Big Ten and had a sharp uptick in cases last week, local health officials ordered all Greek organizations with one or more cases among their live-in members to quarantine. Several states, including Kansas, Colorado and Michigan, have tracked coronavirus clusters to fraternities and sororities.
And at SUNY Oswego in New York State, which has recorded 70 new cases since Saturday, officials warned students that any parties hosted by fraternity or sorority members, even if not technically sponsored by their Greek organizations, would still lead to “severe individual and organizational penalties.”