After weeks of rumors, speculation, protests and bad PR across the board, the Big Ten has reversed course and will once again attempt to play a football season this fall. By coming back in mid-October, the Big Ten would also be in consideration for a College Football Playoff spot. Pat Forde of SI was the first on Wednesday to report that the conference would announce the news.
Reports have indicated that the conference will play eight games with the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis tentatively set for Dec. 19. Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports says that the season will begin Oct. 24 and that daily rapid testing is what turned the tide in the conversation. All 14 teams will be involved in the season.
This week’s saga of events kicked off with Nebraska president Ted Carter being caught on a hot mic prior to a press conference saying that an announcement on the return of football was set to come later in the evening. A handful of media outlets, most notable the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, stated that the “polls were closed” and “votes were in” that confirmed Carter’s slip of the tongue. However, no announcements were made on Tuesday.
Nebraska president Ted Carter leaked news earlier that the B1G is set to announce it's 2020 football plan today. This is confirmed. Polls are closed. Votes are in. Time for #Badgers fans and their pals across the league to celebrate.— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) September 15, 2020
The conference originally postponed all fall sports on Aug. 11, but was met with backlash as the communication and messaging surrounding the decision was lacking. Players, coaches, parents and more across the league have been outspoken about the lack of an explanation for the league’s actions with much of the criticism pointed at commissioner Kevin Warren and the school presidents.
The Michigan Wolverines are among the teams in the conference that have continued to practice without pads since the cancelation as they attempt to stay ready just in case there was a reversal. However, programs like Wisconsin and Nebraska have had to shut down in recent weeks amid coronavirus cases within the program.
The presidents and chancellors made the decision that they did in August due to concerns about the pandemic, which has just passed the six-month mark in the United States. A turning point in the decision to get back to playing football was the increased emphasis on contact tracing and testing throughout the season. It was also previously reported that a Thanksgiving weekend start would be on the table or potentially even January.
Both the ACC and Big 12 have played games so far this season with the SEC set to kick things off next weekend. As of now, the Pac-12 would be the only Power Five school not playing this fall and there is very little to suggest they would consider a reversal despite following the Big Ten’s lead the first time around.
As always, the situation remains extremely fluid. In the span of six days in August, the Big Ten announced a full schedule for the season with built-in dates for postponements and then the presidents pulled the plug on the season altogether. But this is a positive development for those hoping the conference would get back on the field.