The anticipated decision by the Big Ten to cancel the 2020 football season remained a possibility even though the conference office denied a published report Monday that the vote to call off the schedule already had taken place.
Citing “multiple people with knowledge of the decision,” the Detroit Free Press reported that Big Ten presidents chose to cut off the season because of the pandemic. Dan Patrick said Monday on his radio show that the presidents’ vote was 12-2 in favor of canceling football, with Nebraska and Iowa the dissenting members.
However, a Big Ten spokesman told The Inquirer about an hour after the report surfaced that “no vote has been taken” among presidents and chancellors on the matter.
Each Power 5 conference is expected to continue its deliberations this week on canceling the season. The Big Ten is believed to be the conference that is considering the suspension of the season the most, but ESPN reported that the conference is trying to “feel out” the other leagues to see if they’re on board.
The Big Ten conducted two virtual meetings over the weekend and participated in a meeting among the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences, all to discuss growing concerns over playing amid a pandemic.
Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde quoted a Power 5 source as saying, “It’s gotten to a critical stage. I think all of us will be meeting with our boards in the coming days.. We have work to do that’s no fun.”
Meanwhile, Penn State’s James Franklin joined a growing chorus of conference head coaches who support their players’ desire to play a 2020 season.
“I love our players & believe it is my responsibility to help them chase their dreams both collectively & individually. I am willing to fight WITH them & for our program,” Franklin tweeted.
Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh also tweeted in favor of a season. Nebraska’s Scott Frost went one step further, suggesting that the Cornhuskers would seek out their own schedule without the participation of the Big Ten.
“Our university is committed to playing no matter what, no matter what that looks like and how that looks,” Frost said. “We want to play no matter who it is or where it is, so we’ll see how those chips fall. We certainly hope it’s in the Big Ten. If it isn’t, I think we’re prepared to look for other options.”
Politicians also started getting involved. President Donald Trump tweeted, “The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” followed with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay adopted by the players.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., wrote a letter to Big Ten presidents urging them to let the season go forward.
“There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe – that’s absolutely true, it’s always true,” Sasse wrote. “But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18-to-22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”
The #WeWantToPlay movement over the weekend featured statements from star players such as quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Justin Fields of Ohio State.
“I don’t know about y’all, but we want to play,” said Lawrence, the acknowledged front-runner for the 2020 Heisman Trophy.
“There’s been too much work put in,” Fields wrote.
Many players also used a #WeAreUnited hashtag in support of conducting a college football season safely and creating a college football players association in the power conferences.
In addition, the Penn State Football Parents Association issued a statement calling for the season to be carried out, saying it is satisfied with the COVID-19 testing protocols that have been put in place by the university and the Big Ten.
“The players want to play this season,” said the statement, written by Dianne Freiermuth, mother of Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth. “While risk can never be eliminated, Penn State has minimized the risk and the season can be played in a safe manner.
“While I respect the viewpoint of others who may feel differently about the upcoming season, I have full trust in the decisions made by our football coaches and staff.”
Temple plays in the American Athletic Conference, a non-Power 5 league, that is referred to as a Group of 5 conference. The league presidents and athletic directors met last Wednesday, and there was a strong push to go forward. The AAC announced then that teams would play eight conference games and as many as four nonconference games.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN Radio in Memphis, Tenn., that except for “a few upticks every now and then,” coronavirus cases have declined steadily in all conference counties.