Note: On Wednesday morning, the Big Ten announced that the season would start Oct. 23-24. Get details here.
After more than a month of in-fighting and a bombardment of criticism, the Big Ten Conference appeared set to put on a football season this fall.
The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, or COP/C, met Tuesday night and some media reports said it was expected to vote to allow football to return. However, the Detroit Free Press reported late Tuesday no vote had been taken. Starting the football season would be a stunning reversal of the conference’s Aug. 11 decision to shut down football and all fall sports because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other outlets first reported the season’s approval, but it was not known when an official announcement would be made.
The modified season is expected to start on Oct. 17, and the league will attempt to play eight games in nine weeks before playing a Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 19. The conference wants its teams to be eligible for the College Football Playoff, which will reveal its field Dec. 20.
Optimism built throughout the weekend for conference football to return, and it was stoked even more Tuesday morning when Nebraska President Ted Carter said, “We’re getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight,” before a news conference. Carter’s statement was picked up by KETV-TV microphones in Omaha and shared by the Associated Press.
The expected re-vote comes after weekend meetings between the conference’s return-to-competition committee — which is chaired by UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez — and university presidents and chancellors. A meeting Saturday featuring a group of eight presidents and chancellors resulted in the full COP/C hearing the return-to-play committee’s presentation Sunday.
The presentation made by the return-to-competition committee centered on the advancements in COVID-19 testing capabilities and included rapid, daily testing options available to the conference. The committee’s medical panel discussed information related to COVID-19’s link to the viral heart infection myocarditis.
Dr. James Borchers, the head physician of Ohio State’s athletic department, was one of the lead medical voices in the meetings, according to multiple reports. He co-authored a study at OSU regarding COVID-19’s link to myocarditis, which fellow co-author Dr. Curt Daniels says shows a way sports can be safely played now that more information is known.
“I think from what we’ve gathered that we have a safe path to return to play,” Daniels told the Columbus Dispatch.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank represents the University of Wisconsin on the COP/C, and she said Monday that the Big Ten would “move together” in its decision. During her testimony before a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday, Blank said testing and contract tracing issues, along with myocarditis concerns, were key factors in the postponement.
“Once we have answers to that, to some of those issues and things that we have ways to deal with them effectively, we will try to plan a delayed season,” Blank said.
After some media outlets reported early Tuesday evening that the decision would be to move forward, Blank stressed to the State Journal that the vote still had not yet taken place.
Players and their parents have been vocal in their criticism of the Big Ten and its lack of transparency in its decision to push back the football season. Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade’s father, Randy, was one of the leading parent voices in the push for information from the conference and for it to allow the football season to be held. He organized a protest outside of the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, Ill., last month.
With news swirling about the conference season coming back, Wade announced he was opting out of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. Wade is one of the top prospects in the 2021 draft class, and joins fellow Buckeye Wyatt Davis, an offensive lineman, in a group of star opt-outs from the conference. Receivers Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) and Rondale Moore (Purdue) and All-American linebacker Micah Parsons (Penn State) all opted out in early August, before the season was postponed.
The decision to play would end a tumultuous episode in the conference’s history, one that saw coaches and administrators openly questioning the decision-making of Big Ten leaders and a lack of communication from the conference and its commissioner Kevin Warren.
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