The Big Ten Conference might play a role in the 2020 college football season after all, as university presidents and chancellors are reportedly set to vote on whether to start the season in October.
According to ESPN, the 14 university leaders and the Big Ten’s return to competition task force met twice this weekend. Sunday’s videoconference reportedly ended with a plan to vote on restarting the season in the next few days.
If that happens, the vote will come a little more than a month after the Big Ten announced its decision to postpone 2020-21 football to the spring. The timeline has slowly shifted up as players and fans protested, medical solutions became more feasible, and other conferences began to play games.
It would be a dramatic turnaround for a conference that originally had 11 of its 14 members vote to postpone all fall sports. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg has reported that Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa were the only Big Ten members that voted against postponing the season.
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The Pac-12 also postponed for the fall, while the ACC, SEC and Big 12 have already begun to play — or will later this month. The Big Ten’s plan reportedly would start games Oct. 17, which would allow the conference to play a regular-season slate and Big Ten championship game before the College Football Playoff begins with Jan. 1 semifinal games.
In order to move forward, at least nine of the 14 presidents and chancellors will have to vote in favor of playing this fall.
ESPN reported that Sunday’s meeting included the conference’s medical subcommittee outlining plans for faster COVID-19 testing possibilities, while also updating the presidents and chancellors on the latest medical information about myocarditis — the heart issue that was a major component in the Big Ten’s original decision not to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the main differences for the presidents to consider now is the new availability of at least four rapid-response antigen testing options that could allow Big Ten teams to test daily for COVID-19 and significantly decrease the amount of necessary contract tracing,” ESPN’s article states.
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Barry Alvarez, the University of Wisconsin athletic director and the chair of the Big Ten’s return to competition task force, has said that medical answers are the key to getting the chancellors and presidents to vote to restart the season.
“Before the presidents and chancellors give us the go-ahead to play ... they’re going to have to feel comfortable that the medical questions that they had, the things that were presented to them by our doctors in the Big Ten, that they’re answered,” Alvarez said on his Wednesday radio show on 1310 WIBA and Learfield/IMG College, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s as simple as that. It’s not some magical date or who does the best lobbying. Questions have to be answered.”
If the officials vote to begin in mid-October, Alvarez’s Badgers won’t be able to immediately start practice. The University of Wisconsin football team is currently in a two-week holding period due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus.
Even without fans in attendance, playing football would bring some money back to universities that have projected about $100 million budget deficits. Many athletic departments have cut jobs and salaries, while Minnesota and Iowa have dropped some athletic programs.
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