Big Ten reverse field, ignoring reality on their campuses

Several fraternities and sorcery members at Michigan State University have been ordered to separate for two weeks following a coronovirus outbreak on campus. The Chancellor of Wisconsin urged students on Labor Day weekend to “severely limit” their movements after more than 20 percent of its testing, which was positive. In Iowa, where the fall semester is less than a month old, more than 1,800 students have tested positive, and the athletic department alone has 221 cases.

It was against this backdrop that the Big Ten conference, with the virus running rampant at many of its campuses, reversed course on Wednesday and announced that it would start playing football from next month. Conference leaders, who had postponed the fall season until spring only five weeks earlier, said that the science related to the epidemic had changed so much at intervals of 36 days that it was now safe to play.

The way this decision was made with hallelujahs in locker rooms, coaches’ offices, warriors on social media were captured by dead-stern fans and even white House – to say anything of congratulations given by many journalists on a conference call with Big Ten leaders – it may have seemed as if Jonas Salk had risen and given a new vaccine.

Alas, a more fitting image is this: Conference presidents, fitted with fire-retardant suits, kept their homes ablaze, ordering another cocktail.

When the president of Northwestern, Morton Shapiro, was asked how it was appropriate to play for his football team, with the freshman and the soporom, closed for the semester, to prevent his university campus and classes from falling. Said, “That’s a very good question.” “

Then he made a cursory attempt to answer it.

“, I worked thinking that part of the campus is closed and you might not be playing football on campus until then, we hope Winter is open for the quarter, the first week in January.” Council of Big Ten Presidents and Vice Chancellors. “At the end of the day, I got the argument that if we could do it safely, we could play football and other fall sports, there’s no reason to go ahead and do it.”

As it turns out, Shapiro was one of the 11 presidents who flipped over the original decision. That group included Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway, who told last week that he had concerns about where the virus went next month, and that the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences A distorted set of extended values. (A spokesperson for Rutgers said Holloway was unavailable for an interview on Wednesday.)

The decision-making science at the conference, he said, focused on one item: the Big Ten’s ability to rapidly procure testing capabilities, which it says is the goal of college testing its football players (and other fall athletes) on a daily basis. Will allow Rapid tests, however, have been found to be less accurate than other versions. They may miss infected people carrying small amounts of the virus, produce false negatives, or detect infections of those who have only the dead virus, which produces false positives. Daily testing can help flush out those impurities.

Commissioner Kevin Warren, who was filmed last month for his decision not to play in secrecy, promised transparency on Wednesday. And then, minutes later, he refused to say with whom the Big Ten was contracting for the trial.

When the Pac-12, one of the nation’s largest conferences, pulls the plug on football on August 11, just hours after the Big Ten, it cites at least three criteria for potential returns: improved testing, viruses. More information on -related side effects (including inflammation of the heart) and reduction in community infection rates.

The Big Ten said it was addressing many of those concerns. In addition to daily testing, it stated that all coronovirus-positive athletes would have to undergo a cardiac MRI examination. But those expensive machines rarely exist in college cities; The closest to Penn State is about two hours drive away in Harrisburg, Pa. “Access would be a major issue if we said that each of these athletes needed to get one of these,” said Dermot Phelan, a cardiologist. In Charlotte, NC, a consultant for the Atlantic Coast Conference, whose teams have already started the season.

As to community infection rates, there is no limit that prevents the Big Ten from playing. Ohio State team doctor James Borchers, who directed Saturday’s medical presentation to conference presidents, said the key metrics are team positivity rates (between players) and population positivity rates (players, coaches, staff). If players take the test above 5 percent or the population rate exceeds 7.5 percent in a seven-day period, football activities should be stopped for seven days.

But John Swartzberg, an infectious disease professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said that extensive campus and community infection metrics are essential for the game to be played. Swartberg said he was speaking for himself and not the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Board of which he is a member, saying: “To say otherwise is essentially to assume that athletes are living in a bubble that Completely unrelated to the surrounding community. “

Of course, this seems perfectly accurate for the Big Ten.

So far, it is a hollow practice to wonder if the same testing regimen is being offered to the Northwestern football team and will be presented to Northwestern’s theater department or marching band – at least not until then, Until they bring in millions of dollars. In the television revenue that the athletic department does.

Instead, the Big Ten decided to play football – such as at other conferences that have already returned to the field – taking off another layer of college football wear. What the epidemic has done makes it even more clear how it is time to replace the term student-athlete with a more contemporary one: the essential staff.