September 21, 2020
Big 10 Conference to Kick Off in October
In August, college football conferences were asked to peer into their crystal balls and make a prediction about the safety of their student athletes in the age of COVID-19. Several conferences said they were going ahead with their seasons, albeit with some limitations and added regulations. The Big 10, however, home to such NCAA powerhouse programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, decided that the conference was not going to play, at least until spring 2021, if at all.
This led to a massive ripple effect across college sports. With other leagues and conferences playing, and other teams competing, would college football still crown a national champion, especially since in the Big 10, at least Ohio State was expected to be a strong contender? Yes, the NCAA answered. It would be, more or less, business as usual in those other conferences. Fewer fans in the stands, if any, but the games would play, and they would count.
Meanwhile, in the Big 10, players revolted, talking to the media and posting on social media to share their disdain for the decision. One of the key members of this pushback was Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. He and countless fellow players pushed to be allowed to play, hating the idea that their out-of-conference competition would be on the field when they could not.
Weeks passed, and the PR pressure on the Big 10 never relented. Fans and alumni and players continued to ask not “if” but “when.” Now, they have an answer. According to a press released last week, the Big 10 will begin a truncated eight-game schedule on October 23. Players and fans registered immediate joy and appreciation. Fields, of course, was one of the first and loudest. Upon hearing the news, Fields took to Twitter, posting: “Let’s goooooo!!!”
They will get going, but there is a catch, says Ohio State team physician Jim Borchers, adding: “We can’t emphasize enough that what we’re putting forward still requires prevention, requires accountability from everyone involved from our student-athletes to coaches to staff to be doing the things to prevent getting this infection… And our progress will be measured by their efforts, but also we hope by the efforts to provide a clean competition and practice environment.”
While Ohio State is taking the lead in this publicly, all 14 Big 10 schools with football programs say they plan to participate in the eight-game regular season, and vying for the conference championship, scheduled for December 19. Planners say they built some adaptability into the schedule should things need to change, but fans and players aren’t listening. They’re just excited to see football at all, and they can’t wait to get started even if the fans have to watch from home.