Illinois student-athletes held to "higher standard" during unique season

Illinois football practice following the announcement that the season had been rescheduled (Photo Courtesy of University of Illinois).

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCCU/WICS/WRSP) - Big Ten football fans can finally rejoice, as the postponed season has officially been rescheduled.

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors unanimously voting to resume the season the weekend of October 23rd/24th. They did so following increased medical protocol league wide, which will see daily antigen testing, extensive cardiac testing following a positive COVID-19 test, and a 21 day hiatus following a positive test.

The University of Illinois athletics program has already seen low testing numbers throughout summer workouts. Now, it's being stressed to student-athletes how important this opportunity is. After seeing the season postponed once, they know this is something they all need to take seriously in order to be able to take the field this fall.

In order to play, these are the necessary things we have to do," said head coach Lovie Smith. "Our guys, since they came back on campus, we've held them to a higher standard to play, and that will continue.

Smith added that the increased testing protocols won't change an awful lot for the Illinois players, as they've already been undergoing twice weekly testing to workout and practice over the last few months. Now, it comes down to the Illini players to continue following safety protocols while away from team activities the remainder of the season.

To do your job as a teammate, you've got to take care of business off the field, and I have all the confidence in the world that our guys will be able to do that.

While the official schedule has yet to be released, we know it will feature nine games played over nine weeks. In order to complete the season ahead of the final College Football Playoff Rankings, no bye weeks will be scheduled. Meaning there is little room for error as teams try to navigate the season without an outbreak.

"The one thing we have lost over the last month is some of the flexibility that we had in the original schedule," said Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman. "As we go into it, we know we don't have a lot of wiggle room in the schedule, so we might be in a position where we're seeing more cancellations than reschedules if the health of any given team at any given moment doesn't allow us to play."

Another unique feature to the 2020 Big Ten season, is that fans will not be allowed to attend games league wide. Any Illinois fan that had previously purchased tickets to a home game at Memorial Stadium will have the option to carry the ticket over to 2021, donate the money to the I-Fund, or get a refund.

The games won't be played in front of an entirely empty stadium, as family of players and coaches for both home and away teams, will be allowed to attend games this fall.