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Testing for COVID-19 will take on a different look around the Big Ten Conference in the 2021-22 season as decisions on protocols get shifted to individual campuses.

Conference leadership approved a recommendation to continue testing unvaccinated athletes even if they're part of a team where the vast majority has been immunized.

Ann Sheehy mug

Sheehy

Ann Sheehy, a member of the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board who has worked with the Big Ten on its response to the pandemic, told the board Friday that the league's Council of Presidents and Chancellors met last Sunday to set the course for the upcoming season.

The group supported guidance that players and staff members who are vaccinated and asymptomatic don't need to be part of a regular testing routine like the one that was in place in 2020-21.

"That's consistent with what the CDC has recommended, and I think it makes a lot of sense," Sheehy said.

Ann Sheehy, a member of the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board who has worked with the Big Ten on its response to the pandemic, tells the board that the league's Council of Presidents of Chancellors met to set the course for COVID-19 testing in the upcoming season. Video from June 11, 2021.

Testing will continue for unvaccinated individuals and those who are showing signs of COVID-19, she said. The Big Ten had a league-wide testing protocol in 2020-21, but schools will decide on their own how to use testing in the future, Sheehy said.

That follows most guidance released this week by the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group. A key difference, Sheehy said, is that the Big Ten still will require surveillance testing for unvaccinated players and staff members even if their team has reached an 85% vaccinated threshold.

"I'm really excited about this," Sheehy said. "I think this is exactly where we need to be. I'm really grateful that the Big Ten was so careful and so cautious this last year. I think it served us well. But I think it also right now serves us well to pivot and follow local guidance."

Cardiac monitoring for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 also won't be a Big Ten requirement next season, Sheehy said. That topic will be subject to local governance as well.

The league initially required a cardiac MRI as part of a slate of tests performed after a positive diagnosis. The NCAA medical group said a less restrictive course now is recommended.

Sheehy, the faculty athletic representative to the Big Ten and an associate professor in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said she's hopeful that the levels of vaccinated players will be high enough next season to avoid issues because of competition between teams with different testing standards.

"We're going to probably continue to have conversations about that very question, about how to deal with all of these local protocols intersecting," she said.

Contracts extended

Nine Badgers head coaches had a routine one-year contract extension recommendation approved by the Athletic Board, but men's soccer coach John Trask was left out.

Trask had his three-year contract maintained for the second straight year; he has one year left on his agreement. The Badgers men's soccer team was 2-7-1 in a season that was delayed to the spring because of the pandemic.

Kelly Sheffield (volleyball), Paula Wilkins (women's soccer) and Yvette Healy (softball) had five-year contracts extended through the 2025-26 season. Mick Byrne (cross country and track and field), Todd Oehrlein (women's golf), Kelcy McKenna (women's tennis), Danny Westerman (men's tennis), Bebe Bryans (women's rowing) and Chris Clark (men's rowing) had three-year agreements extended through 2023-24.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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