It has been a long and rocky road for the Big Ten this college football season after pulling the plug in early August, perhaps far sooner than it needed to be. There has been a lot of ugly PR and messaging from within the conference and its reputation nationally has taken a major hit, but it seems as though we could potentially be on the brink of a reversal.
According to several media reports on Saturday evening, the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force had a positively-received presentation earlier in the day and that a process to get teams back on the field is moving forward. The presidents and chancellors from the 14 member institutions are set to meet on Sunday and a vote could come shortly thereafter, potentially as soon as the next couple of days.
If (and it still is an “if” situation) a vote does take place to move forward with fall football, the possibility that certain programs could opt out of the 2020 season. Nine votes would be needed in favor of playing to bring the season back.
The biggest question that the presidents and chancellors will weigh is whether or not they are more comfortable with the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing that would be in place than they were when the decision to postpone was made a month ago. President Donald Trump spoke to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren on Sept. 1, but it does not appear that the Big Ten will seek help from the White House and reports have indicated the discussion was more revolved around the mainstream availability of coronavirus tests.
Of the dates to potentially resume, Oct. 17 appears to be the earliest that things could kick back off with the Big Ten Championship in late December. A source with knowledge of the situation told Maize n Brew late Saturday night that Oct. 31 or into early November might be the dates to keep an eye on. Later on in November or starting in January are two options that are still very much on the table.
The long and the short of all of this is that it looks like the Big Ten might actually wind up playing after all with coaches and administrators working long hours behind the scenes to not only keep their teams ready to play, but also put together models that might be supported by the presidents. Nothing is guaranteed at this point, but there is movement and serious action taking place.
For a lot of fans, the start of the college football season has been difficult without the Michigan Wolverines with other teams kicking off their seasons. While games have been successfully played and completed, there still have been a number of postponements and in the case of Memphis football, a significant number of positive tests. But there have been teams that have shown they can play safely and the Big Ten presenting to its leadership how they can be in that camp may be what ultimately decides the fate of the 2020 season.