Wait continues, and clues emerge, as Big Ten debates whether to play football this fall
On Aug. 19, embattled Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said the conference’s decision eight days earlier not to play fall sports would not be revisited.
Whatever decision the Big Ten makes, that declaration proved untrue. The conference has spent the past few days discussing whether to return.
When a decision will be announced remains unknown, though University of Nebraska president Ted Carter was caught on a hot microphone Tuesday by an Omaha television station saying, “We're getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight.”
On CSPAN3 during a virtual Senate hearing on the name, image and likeness issue, Tim Kaine (D-Va.) asked Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank about the Big Ten’s decision not to play. She said it was based mostly on the challenges posed by COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as well as concerns about myocarditis.
“Until we have answers to that, we will keep our season postponed,” Blank said. “Once we have answers to that and to some of those issues and think that we have ways to deal with them effectively, we will try to plan a delayed season."
Kaine then asked Blank about a possible change of heart by the Big Ten.
"I'm not going to speak to that,” Blank said. “You're going to have to let the Big Ten make that announcement when and if such a decision is made. When such a decision happens, the first question should be, 'What's changed?' Hopefully, we will have answers to exactly the issues that I just raised."
Asked if any vote would be unanimous, she replied, “I can't say what the vote is going to look like. Decisions within the Big Ten are largely majority-based decisions, but I'll be honest, we almost always decide everything by consensus. We very rarely take votes."
After eight Nebraska players filed a lawsuit against the Big Ten after its August decision, the conference said it did take a vote and it was 11-3 against playing. Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa provided the dissenting votes.
Even after Warren’s statement on Aug. 19, opponents of the decision, including players, parents and some coaches, kept pushing for a reversal. Ohio State’s parents had a rally Aug. 23 in the rotunda at Ohio Stadium that drew about 200 fans. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day released a statement last Thursday criticizing the Big Ten’s lack of communication and arguing that a season starting in mid-October remained feasible.
Advances in COVID-19 testing also aided the cause. The Pac-12, which also voted Aug. 11 not to play this fall, reached a deal with a rapid-response COVID testing company to provide tests. Ohio State team physician Dr. James Borchers made a presentation to the task force’s steering committee about safety, presumably including the risk of myocarditis, that was reportedly effective.
The college football season began in earnest last week with teams from two other Power Five conferences – the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference – opening play. Teams from the Southeastern Conference begin playing next week.
Ohio State, which was ranked No. 2 behind Clemson in the major preseason polls, was not included in this week’s rankings.
Now the wait continues to see whether Ohio State and other Big Ten teams will have a chance to get back on the field.