The Return of MSU Football

 

Many MSU fans were disheartened at the thought of not having college football this year. However, the Big Ten conference announced that after a unanimous vote, football season will return the weekend of Oct. 24, with strict testing protocols six days a week to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Fans are not allowed to attend games, except for possibly families of the players. MSU President Samuel Stanley announced in an email on September 29th that there will not be any tailgating permitted on campus. MSU and Ingham County will be working together to enforce these restrictions.

 

Presidents, chancellors, medical professionals and Big Ten directors considered many factors when deciding to hold football games. 

“The decision, number one, was driven by medical science. Period,” said Dr. Bonnie Knutson, an MSU Big Ten/NCAA Faculty and Athletics representative 

Although Knutson did not make the decision, she explained that there were many discussions they were brought into with others from the 14 institutions, individually and in “joint groups.” These groups mentioned concerns that the athletic administration may not have considered, such as whether the new game schedules would overlap with final exams. 

 

It was crucial that all the schools within the Big Ten conference were on the same page and in agreement, said Knutson, who is also a professor in the MSU School of Hospitality Business. 

“We go in as a conference, we stop as a conference. It’s not one school against the other,”she said. 

Dr. Jeffrey Kovan, MSU director of sports medicine and performance, works closely with the health of the athletes, especially during this pandemic world. He explained that there were two major concerns weighing on officials’ decisions. 

He said that the major concern for the commissioner of the conference and others on the healthcare side “was some of the abnormal findings on the echocardiograms and cardiac MRI’s, that suggested that there may be some serious risks and heart risks for these student athletes. That was the primary thing that changed it,” he said. 

The second factor was being able to test often to minimize risk of the players spreading the Coronavirus, Kovan said.  Athletes, coaches, and others associated have to take a nasal antigen test six days a week. The results come back in two to three hours - although, having the antigen does not necessarily mean they are positive. 

If a player is found to have the antigen, they will be pulled from the game or practice, and further testing will be done, including a nasal PCR test, which will give results in 24 to 48 hours. Since every athlete in all the Big Ten schools will be following the same protocols, they will have a better idea of whether it is safe for an athlete to be playing that day.

“We’ve learned a lot, and there is a lot we don’t know,” Kovan said. “Many of us still are a little concerned about the long term risks and effects of this disease on people. But we feel better about the ability of testing every day …. we’re never out of the woods, but we feel better than we did a month ago.”