The Hawkeyes will open the COVID-19 football season in Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 5, the Big Ten released this morning.
The league unveiled a 10-game conference-only schedule on the Big Ten Network on Wednesday morning. The season will begin Sept. 5 and end Nov. 21, with two bye weeks and the Thanksgiving break being observed. The breaks leave as many as four “outs” in case COVID-19 shuts down a team or a significant portion of a team for a week.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said the extra weeks will be used for flexibility because of the virus.
“It affords us the best opportunity to be as flexible as we can,” Warren said. “That was one of the reasons we went to a conference-only, all-Big Ten schedule. This builds an opportunity for us to be as flexible as we possibly can.”
• Games can be collapsed into bye weeks.
• Uniform bye week on Nov. 28 can be used to catch up, or in case the beginning of the season is delayed.
• Cross-division games are scheduled for all schools in Week 1 (Sept. 5) and Week 12 (Nov. 21).
• The season has a soft start scheduled on Sept. 5. The sequencing allows for a beginning date as late as Sept. 26.
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The Hawkeyes play four crossovers with the Big Ten East Division — Maryland, Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State. The game against the Buckeyes is the season-ender. The Hawkeyes face Wisconsin the week before. Iowa’s bye weeks are Oct. 17 and Nov. 7. Maryland ended up being the extra game for Iowa.
“As a program, we have been looking forward to this day since the decision to play a conference-only schedule was announced,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement. “Knowing when our games are scheduled will allow us to prepare for what is ahead on the field and support our players’ academic schedules off the field.
“Our players have shown patience and dedication during the most recent period of conditioning and offseason workouts, and now we are excited to begin the process of preparing for a football season. We are continuing to closely monitor the health and safety of our players and staff and look forward to starting our season in Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 5.”
The schedule would’ve been announced Tuesday, but NJ.com reported that 28 Rutgers players and a few staffers had been infected with the coronavirus. Six Big Ten programs have paused workouts, including Northwestern, Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana and Rutgers.
The release of the schedule is a cause for optimism, but Warren cautioned there is a long way to go. He touted the flexibility as the key. He said the season could start on Sept. 5, Sept. 12 or Sept. 19. Another thing a 10-game schedule does is divide home and road games evenly.
There’s also the caveat that comes with anything COVID-19, football and 2020.
“As I sit here today, it’s a fluid situation,” Warren said on the Big Ten Network. “There’s no guarantee that we’ll have fall sports or a football season, but we’re doing everything we possibly can that if we’re so blessed to be able to have fall sports that things are done in a very methodical and professional manner.”
Teams will be allowed to open camp on Friday. That gives them around a month to prepare.
Athletes in high contact sports will undergo two tests a week, at a minimum. The Big Ten also will look for some rapid-testing options as an extra layer of caution.
The tests need to be completed within three days of competition.
The Big Ten will use a third-party testing agency for consistency and credibility.
Fans or no fans? Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said that will be decided soon.
“Now that the football schedule has been announced, we will finalize our Kinnick Stadium seating plan and share that in the next few days,” Barta said in a statement. “If we have the opportunity to play, we are excited about our challenging conference schedule and the five games in Kinnick Stadium.”
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Iowa will begin the 2020 campaign with a four-game winning streak, including a 49-24 win over No. 22 USC in the 2019 Holiday Bowl.
In a release from Iowa sports information, Iowa is scheduled to begin official preparation for the 2020 season on Friday with the opening of preseason camp. There won’t be a Kids Day scrimmage this season.
Also from Iowa sports information: News regarding fan attendance for 2020 home games, including ticketing update and information, along with Kinnick Stadium policies and procedures for the season, will be released soon. Iowa athletics has not yet finalized an allowable attendance figure for home games.
2020 Iowa football schedule
Sept. 5 — Maryland
Sept. 12 — at Purdue
Sept. 19 — at Minnesota
Sept. 26 — Nebraska
Oct. 3 — Northwestern
Oct. 10 — Illinois
Oct. 24 — at Penn State
Oct. 31 — Michigan State
Nov. 14 — Wisconsin
Nov. 21 — at Ohio State
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