The Big Ten basically called an audible and announced today that it will play football this fall after all. The conference voted to begin its season on October 24. This is after the schools agreed to push the 2020 season back because of the pandemic just about a month ago.
The league, which includes college football powerhouses like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, will be back on the field with teams playing eight regular-season over eight weeks along with a Big Ten Championship Game and six additional consolation games.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said the development of rapid testing technology has made it possible to resume play without endangering players. “This is a fluid situation, and we always wanted to make sure we put the health and safety of our student athletes at the forefront,” he said.
Trump, who was furious when the Big Ten canceled play, applauded the league’s 180-degree turn and took some credit for the decision. “President Trump had nothing to do with our decision and did not impact the deliberations,” a Big Ten university president told NBC News. “In fact, when his name came up, it was a negative because no one wanted this to be political.”
The Big Ten Championship Game is scheduled for December 19, making the league eligible for the College Football Playoff as the final CFP Rankings announcement of the season is set for December 20.
The Big Ten will also play league consolation games with teams placing second-through seventh-place in their divisions matching up on December 19. There may be adjustments to those games, however, as Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said the Big Ten will try to avoid repeat matchups if teams have already played in the regular season.
Tickets will not be sold and fans will not be allowed to attend games this season, though exceptions may be made for families of athletes, coaches and staff.
According to most every report, the development of rapid COVID-19 testing was the biggest factor in the conference’s return. Players will now be tested daily and will be able to get results quickly. They will also be screened for myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that can result from COVID-19.
The Big Ten, since their decision to cancel the season, has fought a multi-front public relations battle as it received pressure from players, coaches, parents and even President Donald Trump. The changes in health and safety protocols were the big change here, but regardless of what the Big Ten says, I believe the concern and call from President Trump sure didn’t hurt the decision any to play.