Big Ten football mystery continues; either all teams will play, or none will, official says
LINCOLN — Monday came and went on 14 campuses spread across more than 1,200 miles. Those Big Ten schools still don’t know for sure when — or if — the league will play football this fall.
What is known, as theories bounced around social media, is that if the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors votes to play fall sports — including football — this week, all 14 schools will be playing.
On a teleconference with local reporters, University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who is on the council, said the league would “move together” on a decision to play this fall. She said either all programs will play, or all won’t.
“This isn’t going to be a school-by-school thing,” Blank said, rebuffing Monday morning comments from a national radio host who suggested that several teams — Michigan, Michigan State and Maryland among them — might sit out a fall schedule for various reasons.
The “move together” approach of the Big Ten would be consistent with the league’s stance on Aug. 11, when it voted 11-3 to postpone its season and would not allow Nebraska and Ohio State to pursue their own schedules.
The Huskers and Buckeyes stopped pushing for their own solutions to a postponed season. But neither ever stopped pushing for the prospect of fall football. Even as two of Ohio State’s best players, guard Wyatt Davis and cornerback Shaun Wade, have announced that they’ll opt out of the 2020 season and prepare for the NFL Draft, OSU, the league’s best team, has been bullish on a season, and it was the Buckeyes’ team doctor, Dr. James Borchers, according to reports, who led a Big Ten medical subcommittee’s presentation over the weekend showing league presidents and chancellors how a season can be pulled off safely using rapid, point-of-care antigen testing.
Aside from a statement by the lawyer representing Husker players in a lawsuit, Nebraska has been relatively quiet over the last week (other than the words “no vote” via text, NU Athletic Director Bill Moos declined to comment, and the university administration has consistently declined to comment), but it did secure its own antigen test kits — 1,200 of them — should the Big Ten choose to kick-start its season.
The target date, according to multiple reports, remains Oct. 17. That would allow for an eight-game season and a Dec. 19 conference title game. The College Football Playoff, chaired by Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta, declares its top four teams the following day. It’s not clear if the Big Ten might allow willing teams a shot at a nonconference game on Oct. 3 or Oct. 10. ACC and Big 12 schools scheduled one such game.
Any vote to play would be a big reversal in the last month, as a week after the vote to postpone, Commissioner Kevin Warren wrote in a letter that the decision wouldn’t be revisited. But the league has forged ahead toward reconsideration, fueled in part by the ready availability of daily antigen testing.
The Pac-12 signed its deal with Quidel. The Big 12 followed suit. Nebraska has its kits. The Big Ten may be able to acquire tests either from the coming federal stockpile of Abbott tests — President Donald Trump had a phone call with Warren on Sept. 1 — or strike its own deal with Quidel or another company.
The antigen tests allow for teams to take tests the night before the game, or even at breakfast on game day, get results, and know who can or can’t play before kickoff. Daily testing helps with contact tracing, as well, something that may be needed in several locales.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!