The Big Ten, the conference that postponed its fall football season on Aug. 11, six days after revising its schedule to include 10 league games, looks like it might call another audible.
The conference’s Return to Competition task force, which had been working on beginning a football season in the spring, and then one that would start on Thanksgiving weekend, now is looking to see if something can be approved for perhaps mid-October.
According to multiple reports Friday, a Big Ten medical subcommittee will brief the conference’s presidents and chancellors on proposed COVID-19 protocols for players and coaches this weekend. The Chicago Tribune said another vote on whether to have a football season could come as early as Sunday.
However, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports said the presidents and chancellors want all their questions answered about testing, contact tracing, and the chances of myocarditis – a heart condition – afflicting a player who has had COVID-19.
“If the medical standards aren’t where they need to be, there will be no vote,” Thamel said on Twitter.
It’s been a busy two days in the continuing season-or-no-season football drama in the Big Ten.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day, in releasing a statement Thursday complaining about the lack of communication from the Big Ten regarding progress toward a season, said the conference’s medical subcommittee “has done an excellent job of creating a safe pathway toward returning to play in mid-October.”
Another belief in an October start came from Nebraska president Ted Carter, who said earlier this week that the task force was “putting together some plans that the presidents and chancellors will vote on very soon.”
Ohio State and Nebraska joined Iowa as the three Big Ten members to vote in favor of a fall season, while 11 other schools, including Penn State, voted against it.
Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin said on Penn State’s Unrivaled podcast Friday that Big Ten teams should be allowed to opt out “if one or two teams don’t feel like they can pull off all the policies and procedures in place.” He also said he felt his team could be ready to play with four weeks of preparation if the season is allowed to start.
However, the thought is different at Rutgers where president Jonathan Holloway told New Jersey Advance Media that the best idea would be to play in the spring semester so the conference can learn more about testing and potential vaccines.
“I know other universities are facing unique pressure in the other direction – I get that,” Holloway said in an interview Thursday with columnist Steve Politi. "That’s just where I am right now. We’ll hope for the best, frankly. No president, whether they’re pushing to start tomorrow or in January, none of us wants to risk our students.
“There are different levels of comfort and confidence about how we can move forward.”
Even state governments have gotten involved. A group of 10 legislators from six states with Big Ten schools, including Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), sent a letter to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and conference presidents and chancellors urging that the fall football season be played.
On Friday, Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson wrote to the Big Ten saying the conference “appears to be out of compliance with the Nebraska Non-Profit Corporation Act,” and adding, “It is imperative that the organization operate with complete transparency regarding its decision-making process.”