Big Ten Football
The Big Ten, one of the NCAA’s Power Five conferences, has brought back the 2020 football season. This unanimous decision by the conference’s presidents and chancellors reversed their earlier decision to postpone the season to spring of 2021.
“Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “Our Return to Competition Task Force [has] accomplished to ensure the health, safety, and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”
On Aug. 11, the conference decided to postpone the fall sports season because of concern for corona-virus spread and concern for the wellbeing of players, coaches, and the community. The decision to cancel the season was heavily protested by players and parents who felt as though the risk of corona-virus was not high enough to justify the postponement.
The Big Ten will play an eight game conference-only schedule, beginning Oct. 24. The schedule will also include the possibility of post-season games during the Big Ten Champions Week, which will be held on the weekend of Dec. 19.
The return of the football season also comes with new restrictions for gameplay. The conference will not sell any tickets to the games to the general public. Teams must stop practice and games for at least a week if the test positivity rate reaches greater than five percent.
The conference also promises to pay attention to coronavirus presence and test positivity rate in the community before making decisions on weekly gameplay.
Other safety precautions include daily antigen testing, sidelining players who have tested positive for COVID-19 for 21 days, and requiring players who have tested positive to undergo cardiac testing and get approved by a university designated cardiologist.
The Big Ten consists of 14 schools, mostly in the Midwest, where COVID cases are still on the rise. On Sept. 22, both Iowa and Wisconsin were among the top states in the United States for the spread of COVID-19.
President Donald Trump has been pushing the Big Ten to bring back fall sports, having talks with the conference, and expressing his desire to have the conference bring back football in his Tweets and rallies.
The Big Ten mainly consists of colleges in states Trump needs to win in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, and Trump recognizes the political value in the conference bringing back football. Trump is hoping that the return of football will score him political points with voters in crucial states like Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump has also insisted that the PAC 12, who also postponed their season, needs to bring back their football season too. Whether or not the return of football will help Trump is unclear.
Of the Power Five conferences, the Big XII, ACC, and SEC are already playing their football seasons with restrictions, extra safety precautions, and limited fans in the stands.
The PAC 12, another Power Five conference, voted in August to postpone their fall sports season, but on Sept. 24 they announced that they, too, had voted to bring back their football season. The conference is planning on playing a seven-game schedule beginning the weekend of Nov. 6, and playing a conference championship on Dec. 18. Their decision was almost certainly a result of Trump’s urging and the Big Ten’s decision the previous week.
Although football is back for the Power Five conferences, the future of other Big Ten fall sports is still up in the air. The Big Ten has said that a decision on the fate of other fall sports, as well as winter sports, is imminent. What is also unclear is how the return of football will impact the election, COVID cases, and the general safety and wellbeing of everyone involved.