President Trump, in what some have called a political ploy, reached out Tuesday to Big Ten Conference commissioner Kevin Warren to discuss the league’s football teams taking the field as soon as possible.
ESPN reports that Trump called the conversation “very productive,” and said that Big Ten football is something that both players and fans want to see.
The league’s presidents and chancellors would have to approve any plan to return to play, according to a Big Ten official who spoke to ESPN. Earlier this week it was revealed that the league’s council of presidents and chancellors voted by an 11-3 margin to postpone the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Big Ten has a task force devoted to the subject of returning to play, which is reportedly considering several options, including returning in late November or in early January.
Among the things Warren and Trump discussed were the ability of the conference to access rapid testing. The administration has said it plans to roll out 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests in 2020.
Despite Trump’s claim on Twitter Tuesday that the conference’s plans to return were at the “one yard line!”, a Big Ten source told ESPN that the league’s plans to return are still being discussed and that “nothing has changed.”
"Nothing," the source stated. "We have to get all the medical questions answered before we can even bring back a plan to the presidents for approval."
Meanwhile, national media have described Trump’s call with Warren as a political move intended to court swing voters in the Midwest.
“Trump’s transparent setting up of Warren as a political punching bag this fall to court votes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan is so obvious that the only surprise is that he didn’t do it sooner,” wrote Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.
The Big Ten became the first Power Five conference to postpone fall sports, including football, August 11. The Pac-12 Conference followed with its own announcement the same day.
A Pac-12 spokesperson told ESPN that the president did not reach out to league commissioner Larry Scott to discuss a potential plan for restarting.
No formal plans to return have been presented to Big Ten member presidents to date, but how and whether the league can get back on the field will depend on how quickly medical advisors and athletics directors can present a plan that would be amenable to the Big Ten's 14 university presidents and chancellors.